How 3D Concrete Printing is Paving the Way for Construction

With increasing spotlight being directed on 3D printed infrastructure, 3D printed concrete is undoubtedly playing huge role within that revolution. According to a construction report by Visiongain, as of 2019, the 3D concrete printing market is now worth $27.8m. What’s more, other research suggests this figure is set to climb to $56.4m by 2021.

3D Concrete PrintingThe up-and-coming technology is being adopted globally, since 3D concrete printing enables manufacturers and building companies to utilize pre-designed concrete components for construction projects - saving time, money and labor in the process.

Indeed, extended building project timescales can be stripped back to mere days in place of work that takes weeks, months or even years. There are many benefits to 3D concrete printing, including:

  • Error reduction, which improves safety outcomes for workers.
  • Increased design flexibility, which enables more diverse projects to be undertaken.
  • Reduced environmental impact.
  • Requires fewer materials than traditional building processes.

3D Concrete Printing Examples

Construction companies are continually experimenting with various concrete mixes and different printing machines in a bid to determine the best method(s) for this innovative construction technique.

Here is a snapshot of just some of the recent developments:

1. Project Milestone
Last year, the Dutch city of Eindhoven embarked on a building project involving a large 3D concrete printer that will ‘print’ five houses. Project Milestone is a unique collaboration between the Eindhoven University of Technology and various construction companies, which aims to cut costs and environmental damage by reducing the amount of concrete used overall.

Project Milestone: 3D Concrete Printing

Photo courtesy: 3D Printed House

The company says:

The 3D printing technique gives freedom of form, whereas traditional concrete is very rigid in shape. This freedom of form has been used to make a design with which the houses naturally blend into their wooded surroundings, like boulders; as if the five buildings were abandoned and have always been in this wooded oasis.

Residents will move in later this year.

2. The Wasp Project
Then there’s The Wasp Project, and its flagship project the Crane WASP, a collaborative 3D printing system able to print houses. The company reinterprets classic building cranes from a digital manufacturing point of view. The single module can work self-sufficiently by printing fluids of different kinds, including cement, bio cement and natural dough.

3. Apis Cor
Russian company Apis Cor became somewhat of an internet sensation when they managed to build a whole, functional house in less than a day. The 3D printer produces the whole building directly on-site by printing walls and structures.

The company’s mission is to create fully autonomous equipment that will be able to print buildings on Earth... and beyond. They have their sights set specifically on Mars. Watch this space!

4. Shanghai Pedestrian Bridge

3D Concrete Printed Bridge

Photo courtesy: JCDA

At the start of 2019, the world’s largest pedestrian bridge - 3D printed entirely in concrete - was completed in the industrial and creative center of the Baoshan district of Shanghai. The project was designed and led by a team steered by professor Xu Weiguo of Tsinghua University’s School of Architecture.

The Future of 3D Printed Concrete

Visiongain’s recent report suggests that the 3D concrete printing market is set to receive mounting attention over the coming years. Moreover, the market is expected to receive increased interest from the Asia Pacific and Latin America markets specifically, where development of new infrastructure and large scale industrialization is at an all time high.

The company's report analyst says:

There are already a variety of concrete mixes on the market, such as shotcrete, ready-mix concrete, limecrete, precast and stamped concrete, and high-density concrete, and many more effective mixes are being introduced at a steady pace. Building firms are increasingly using [3D printing] to formulate building elements such as panels, lintels, roofs, floors, walls and floor slabs.

Digital leader for the built environment at engineering firm Aurecon, John Hainsworth, believes, “If it doesn’t need to be a thing of beauty and it just needs to be rapidly produced, then it’s only a matter of time before [3D printing] is seen to be [increasingly] viable.”

However, there are limitations to the widespread use of 3D printing houses, bridges and commercial buildings. Axel Thèry of Constructions-3D explains:

The main difficulties come from the fact that the process of 3D printing buildings is not today recognized as a construction method by many codes and standards bodies.

As the printed structures are not traditional, the calculations of resistance and resistance in time are difficult to realize, that is why the habitable works will have to be tested on a case by case basis at the beginning.

In summary, 3D concrete printing is on the rise; using additive manufacturing on construction sites clearly allows for a reduction in costs and waste, faster build speeds, safer working environments and the potential for more complex architecture. While the 3D concrete printing is not as mainstream as 3D printing in the aeronautical or medical industries for example, it is certainly an area that is seeing increasing investment and attention – and for good reason.