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UK construction players collaborate on 3D concrete printing project

World Cement,

Skanska has signed an agreement with Loughborough University, UK, that will enable it to use 3D concrete printing technology, under license, in real applications. The technology is a result of research by a team at the university’s School of Civil and Building Engineering, led by Dr Richard Buswell and Professor Simon Austin. The project began under the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMRC), and the team has been working on 3D printing technology for the construction sector since 2007.

The team has developed 3D concrete printers that are fitted to a gantry and a robotic arm – a technology that is now its second-generation form. Under computer control, the printer precisely deposits high-performance concrete, layering the concrete to form the desired objects. The printer can create objects that cannot by produced through conventional processes, for example, complex structural components, curved cladding panels and architectural features.

An 18-month development programme aims to create the world’s first commercial concrete printing robot. For Skanska, the programme is a means of exploring the opportunities presented by this technology whilst aiding in the development of a 3D printing supply chain. In addition, the project will place Skanska ‘in a good position to capitalise on an emerging technology with the potential to revolutionise the design and construction process’.

“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,” says Rob Francis, Skanska’s Director of Innovation and Business Improvement.

“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,” explains Dr Richard Buswell from the Building Energy Research Group at Loughborough University.

A number of other companies are involved in the project alongside Skanska, such as Lafarge Tarmac, ABB, Buchan Concrete and Foster + Partners.

“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,” adds Dr Buswell.

Adapted from press release by

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