Skanska to develop first commercial 3D concrete printer

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The 3D printer is able to make things which cannot be manufactured by conventional processes.

Skanska is leading an 18-month programme to develop the world’s first commercial concrete printing robot. The company will use 3D concrete printing technology developed through research at Loughborough University, and apply it to real applications with a view to ‘revolutionising the design and construction process’.

The 3D printer is fitted to a gantry and a robotic arm and deposits a high–performance concrete precisely under computer control. It works by laying down successive layers of concrete until the entire object is created. The printer is said to be able to make things which cannot be manufactured by conventional processes, such as complex structural components, curved cladding panels and architectural features.
A team in the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough, led by Dr Richard Buswell and Professor Simon Austin, have worked on the development of 3D printing technology for the construction industry since 2007.

Rob Francis, Skanska’s Director of Innovation and Business Improvement said: “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. We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency which has never been seen before in construction.”

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Dr Richard Buswell from the Building Energy Research Group at Loughborough University comments: “The modern construction industry is becoming more and more demanding in terms of design and construction. We have reached a point where new developments in construction manufacturing are required to meet the new challenges and our research has sought to respond to that challenge.

“We are pleased and excited by the opportunity to develop the world’s first commercial 3D concrete printing robot with Skanska and their consortium. We have been convinced of its viability in the lab, but it now needs the industry to adapt the technology to service real applications in construction and architecture.”

Foster + Partners, Buchan Concrete, ABB and Lafarge Tarmac are also working with Skanska on this project

DEVELOP3D’s sister magazine, AEC, first reported on the project in 2010.

Meanwhile, read our in-depth article on Italian engineer, Enrico Dini, who has developed a 3D printing technology that prints buildings out of sand.

Enrico Dini’s D-Shape machine is a large aluminium gantry structure, which uses CAM software to drive a huge print head during the building process