As we know there is a lot happening with 3D printing of concrete across the world, with as many as 65 companies and organisations developing construction-based 3D printing, according to a study by US-headquartered Boston Consulting Group.
The concrete dispensing printing systems being developed are generally based on one of two processes, either extrusion using robotics or binder-based using gantry systems. As with all 3D printing technologies and their application across various sectors, the value add of 3D printing lies primarily in the possibility to create complex shapes – complexity of design comes free.
There is a lot of focus on robotic 3D printing of concrete structures due to the technology’s ability to generate freeform structures that would be difficult or impossible to make using traditional methods. To tackle the issue of strength, there is ongoing collaboration between industry and academia to allow for the incorporation of reinforcements without compromising on the design freedom that 3D printing enables.
At present, 3D printing of concrete is suitable for architecturally complex designs that are geared more towards monumental and sculptural structures than everyday buildings, although foot bridges, building facades and the use of 3D printed moulds are some of the applications that are providing immediate value to contractors.
However, the technology is advancing, and investment in materials being used for 3D printing construction is growing. Over the next 5 to 10 years you will see a convergence of robotics and 3D printing with conventional and existing building processes, as we have seen across many sectors.