Netherlands: Eindhoven University of Technology Embarks on Extended Project in Concrete 3D Printing

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images3D printing, no matter the purpose, has showstopping appeal. Just about everything one can produce with a 3D printer is amazing–and it’s no secret that makers love to show off what they can do, sharing their enthusiasm for this technology that spans nearly every area one can think of, from art to medicine and everything in between. From super expensive to super affordable, glossy and manufactured to homemade, and tiny and compact to enormous–nearly every 3D printer and what it can do is still a source of fascination.

Construction would definitely go under the ‘everything in between’ category so far. And this latest in impressive 3D printers for that sector would go under the category of both showstopping and massive, in the form of a new concrete printer in the Netherlands at the Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e).

Similar to some other machinery (like the WASP concrete 3D printer, which we’ve followed for quite some time) we’ve seen for these uses, this one too has a crane-like appearance. Built by Dutch company ROHACO, this is no portable machine, with a swiveling printer head, concrete mixing and pump unit, and the ability to pump out prints as large as 11 meters long, 5 meters wide and 4 meters high.

2-kingsize3dcoWhile experts making industry projections see construction and infrastructure as an area that will be hugely affected by 3D printing, we haven’t seen it coming to fruition just yet, and obviously TU/e has decided to accelerate the process with their study.

Building houses and new roads are serious endeavors, however–and much like the bioprinting industry as we look toward 3D printing tissues and organs, these are areas where research and development must go at a certain pace and evolve in what can be a painstaking manner–something we aren’t used to seeing in connection with this technology as it progresses at rollercoaster speed.

The distinction to be made in this particular construction process is quite simple: pouring concrete and 3D printing it are two very different exercises. The study, 3D Concrete Printing (3DCP), is being funded to the tune of 650,000 euros, which is around $720,000 USD. With an event centered around the project concept on October 22 at the TU/e, the new 3D printer was highlighted. Over 400 companies registered at the time, and there is now a waiting list as well.

“That is quite extreme. It just shows how much interest there is in this new technology,” said Theo Salet, professor of concrete structures.

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The concrete 3D printer at Eindhoven University of Technology. Credit: Rien Meulman

Both Salet and PhD student Rob Wolfs believe in the potential of 3D printing with concrete, as well as using it to make more detail oriented pieces besides large structural items like walls. They are taking this process to the next level, hoping to integrate smart components into the concrete printing, with items that could serve as wireless sensors and more–all very appropriate to the construction and building sector–as temperature, lighting, and security could be controlled. Also possible on the horizon for this project is the fabrication of a variety of features in one product. Applying specifically to items like walls, large 3D printed pieces could be manufactured with strengthening agents, insulation, and even dirt repellants.

“I tend to call it ‘concrete 2.0’,” says Salet.

All of the benefits of 3D printing would be rewarding in regards to this project with added affordability, efficiency, quality, and the ability to make changes and innovation that would not be possible without the power of 3D printing.

Ten other organizations besides TU/e are participating in the project, where they hope to explore the possibilities with concrete, as well as innovating with items like new printheads and the ability to perform multi-component 3D printing. The 3DCP project is expected to span at least several years.  Discuss this story here.

[Source: Phys.org]
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Samples of 3D prints from the new concrete 3D printer. Credit: Rien Meulman

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