3D Printed Construction Milestone Achieved

Detail of Heijmans’ concrete 3D printer during extrusion

Netherlands company Heijmans partnered with CyBe Construction to produce prototype concrete formworks. Apparently, they were successful. 

Heijmans has been doing experimental work related to 3D printed construction for some time now, having built a small bridge and the “canal house” previously. 

This time the work is a little different. They produced two forms that test their ability to make concrete structural components. The idea is to perfect this technique so that they can, in the future, produce unique concrete construction components that cannot easily be made in other ways. They explain: 

Clients are increasingly demanding more complex designs and forms for houses and structures such as viaducts. This requires a lot of effort in terms of implementation and the design. These complex forms can be made through the traditional process; however, it costs a lot of design time and man hours to implement. 3D printing a concrete formwork, or even an entire construction, offers the potential to make free, organic forms of equal quality, but at lower costs (up to 50% lower).

 One of Heijmans' experimental 3D printed formworks
One of Heijmans’ experimental 3D printed formworks

The two formworks were fairly straightforward in design. One was a simple hollow slab, while the second involved two curves. Both were subsequently to be filled with reinforced concrete. The idea, I believe, is to prove these techniques are truly feasible in a gradual manner. They hope to actually use such components in a real project sometime in 2017, based on the success of these experiments. 

 Another 3D printed concrete formwork by Heijmans; this one has the lower surface manually smoothed
Another 3D printed concrete formwork by Heijmans; this one has the lower surface manually smoothed

As seen here, the concrete printer used is not of high resolution, but that actually doesn’t matter for this application. The lower portion of this curved formwork has been manually smoothed to demonstrate how you can overcome that lack of resolution. 

I’m impressed these two companies are undertaking these experiments, because, well, someone has to. The problem is that unlike small lab experiments, 3D printed construction experiments are pricey, logistically tricky undertakings, requiring lots of space and unusual equipment. It’s from good corporate foresight that comes the long term support necessary to find the right ways to do 3D printed construction. 

And, it doesn’t hurt that Heijmans is a very large company with the expertise and funding to keep the work going. 

Via Heijmans

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