3D Printing

Loughborough University researchers unveil plans to commercialize 3D concrete printing

Loughborough University resear...
In the future, could architects click-and-print their projects? (Photo: Skanksa)
In the future, could architects click-and-print their projects? (Photo: Skanksa)
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In the future, could architects click-and-print their projects? (Photo: Skanksa)
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In the future, could architects click-and-print their projects? (Photo: Skanksa)
The UK's Loughborough University has announced a deal with construction company Skanska and architecture firm Foster + Partners to develop and commercialize a 3D concrete printing (Photo: Skanksa)
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The UK's Loughborough University has announced a deal with construction company Skanska and architecture firm Foster + Partners to develop and commercialize a 3D concrete printing (Photo: Skanksa)
The system comprises a gantry and robotic arm – the latter now in its second generation of development (Photo: Skanksa)
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The system comprises a gantry and robotic arm – the latter now in its second generation of development (Photo: Skanksa)
According to the researchers, this offers the potential to create extremely complex structures which would be far more difficult and time-intensive to realize with current construction techniques (Photo: Skanksa)
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According to the researchers, this offers the potential to create extremely complex structures which would be far more difficult and time-intensive to realize with current construction techniques (Photo: Skanksa)
The 3D concrete printer could eventually create whole sections of a building, ready to be assembled with all necessary pipe and electrical fittings already integrated (Photo: Skanksa)
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The 3D concrete printer could eventually create whole sections of a building, ready to be assembled with all necessary pipe and electrical fittings already integrated (Photo: Skanksa)
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Following our recent report of a Chinese company printing 10 houses in a day, the potential for architects to essentially click-and-print complex large-scale projects on a regular basis has moved a step closer to reality. This week, the UK's Loughborough University announced a deal with construction company Skanska and architecture firm Foster + Partners to develop and commercialize 3D concrete printing.

The researchers at Loughborough's School of Civil and Building Engineering have been developing 3D concrete printing technology with a view to commercialization for seven years now, and have refined their technique to a system that comprises a gantry and robotic arm – the latter now in its second generation of development.

Much like Andrey Rudenko's 3D concrete printer, Loughborough's device extrudes cement-based mortar under very precise computer control into layers, in order to create building components, which are then joined together.

According to the researchers, this offers the potential to create extremely complex structures which would be far more difficult and time-intensive to realize with current construction techniques. For example, the 3D concrete printer could eventually create whole sections of a building, ready to be assembled with all necessary pipe and electrical fittings already integrated.

The system comprises a gantry and robotic arm – the latter now in its second generation of development (Photo: Skanksa)
The system comprises a gantry and robotic arm – the latter now in its second generation of development (Photo: Skanksa)

"3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours," said Rob Francis, Skanska's director of innovation and business improvement.

As of this writing, the researchers were unavailable to comment on some technical questions we posed, such as the current rate at which the concrete is printed, for example, but we'll let you know if and when we hear back. However, the video below provides a little more information on the project.

Sources: Skanksa, Loughborough University

Future of Construction Process: 3D Concrete Printing

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9 comments
9 comments
Bob Flint
No mention of reinforcement (re-bar) otherwise a Lego block approach.
Could design in weld areas, or couplings perhaps. Every process has limitations though the in factory prefab or even on site production is interesting.
Lewis M. Dickens III
Architects are often in want of some sort of crazyness in the hopes that they can change the world.
Been there done that. I set up and scheduled the SUNY Stonybrook Medical School on Long Island. We were given 9 months to design and see to the construction of a 600,000SF Medical School. (That's 11 football fields of Building.) The project was handed to us in November and they had already admitted the first class with no place to teach so the doors had to be open in the following fall. I was given virtually total oversight and layed out what the the Project designer could and couldn't do. And coordinated the work for all building systems.
It was written up in the Harvard Business Review in 1974.
So when I see these designs with all sorts of nonsensical ripples, bumps, and enormous numbers of parts I tend to go into sheer revulsion.
Please bear in mind that I am all in favor of creativity and beauty but there certainly has to be a dollop of logic in the design.
Now the idea can be asserted that printing concrete is the perfect way to create concrete members. Possibly true but in this carried away Batman Revisited Genre world it would be nice to know that hard reason still exists.
Bill
Slowburn
If they were talking about pouring concrete around rebar without the need for forms then they would be on to something.
The Hoff
I just looked up SUNY Stonybrook Medical School. It's pretty alright. ..pretty boring. Printed buildings could be both fast and beautiful with much lower labor costs.
jimbo92107
Some of these curvy, misshapen designs remind me of people's first tattoos. Fun at first, but a few years later, they want the tattoo removed with a scalpel. Classic design tends to blend form with function. As we move forward into this brave new world of architectural design, I hope people don't forget that buildings will be used, so they should be designed to be useful.
Printing Partner
there are already low cost 3d printing mud houses
Conny Söre
Another group of workers soon to be replaced by robots...
Jason Spiller
Low cost mud houses are cheaper when made with hands, not 3d printers. Plus it's hard to find power/mechanical/electronic replacements in the African bush.
Davey Hiltz
Now that's amazing. The things they could do with that would be amazing. I would think about all the structural security that you could create if you could print concrete layer by layer. You could make some pretty impressive looking structures if you knew what you were doing. I think the problem now would be to set it up at the building site.