Last month, the second cycle of the Dubai Future Accelerators program got underway, after a successful initial launch last summer. The program’s goal is to bring together startups and government agencies to solve the issues of the future through technology, and already some great ideas are coming out of the second cycle. Although the government agencies participating in the program are local to Dubai, many of the startups are from all over the world, and this week’s latest innovation comes from a young Russian-Italian company called Renca.
The joint venture was formed by Italian Alex Reggiani and Russian Andrey Dudnikov, who are working with the Dubai Municipality to develop their geopolymer cement 3D printing material. Geocement is a green cement in every sense except actual color – not only does its production require only a tenth of the energy required to produce traditional Portland cement, but it’s made from industrial byproducts, reducing waste. It’s not just an eco-gimmick, either – geocement, according to Renca, is a much more effective building material than traditional cement.The main components of geocement are fly ash, a fine powder produced by burning pulverized coal, and granulated blast slag, a byproduct of iron and steelmaking. The cement and concrete made from these materials has better thermal insulation properties than regular concrete, so it performs better than other materials in hot climates – like, for example, Dubai. It’s also cheaper to use than Portland cement, because it doesn’t require additives, and these two attributes – heat resistance and low cost – make it ideal for a large-scale 3D printing project like that being undertaken by Dubai’s government.
“For 3D printers you have to adjust the properties of concrete. It should be fluid enough for the 3D printer and it should set very quickly. When the first layer is in place, the second layer will come straight after,” said Dudnikov. “To achieve this with normal concrete you have to add a lot of additives, so it becomes expensive. With geopolymer concrete, you can adjust the properties of the cement with the amount of raw materials you add. It’s easy to regulate, achieves fast settings and it is easy to use in these [hot] temperatures.”
Additional benefits of geocement include chemical and fire resistance, excellent waterproof properties, and strength. Just the fact that it doesn’t require the extraction of any raw materials reduces its environmental impact by 60% at a minimum, according to Renca.
Dudnikov and Reggiani formed Renca last January after they met at a Geopolymer Institute conference in France. Their environmentally friendly, 3D printable cement product almost seems tailor-made for Dubai, which has pledged both to make a quarter of the city-state’s buildings 3D printed by 2030 and to become the most sustainable city in the world by 2020. Right now they’re working with Dubai Municipality to optimize the material for 3D printing projects in the city, and they’re also looking into setting up a production plant within Dubai.
“We are very interested in establishing here. It’s a huge market and people are interested in implementing the technologies,” said Dudnikov. “They really move fast here. We want to take part in this and our technology can provide a lot of benefits.”
He added that in the next few weeks, Renca plans to begin talks with local investors. The company has worked with several prominent 3D printing organizations in the past, such as 3D printing construction firm Apis Cor, which recently 3D printed a house in Russia in only 24 hours, and the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing at Nanyang Technological University. The Apis Cor project, in fact, served as a field test for the geocement, demonstrating how efficient it really is.
“This experience is unique. Both technologies are at the start of conquering the construction market, but the representatives of both companies believe that the future is in fast and eco-friendly construction,” Renca states. “The tests have shown a high [efficiency] of geobeton. Due to its specific composition an ideal for 3D printing consistency of the mixture was reached. This shortens the time of construction: the houses can be built within hours.
“The elaborated formula of geobeton is the most suitable for the technology of 3D printing due to a higher thixotropy, fluidity and an ability to adjust the setting time, with a constantly high mechanical strength (compressive strength reaches 100 MPa and more). “
The company plans to further modify the material to optimize it for cold as well as hot temperatures, and to create mixtures using materials that are local to regions around the world, further reducing its cost and environmental impact. Discuss in the Renca forum at 3DPB.com.