3D Printing in Construction – Latest News

3D Printing in Construction – Latest News

25th February 2019

Here at Safety Fabrications, we’ve reported in the past on 3D printing and some of the opportunities it could provide to the construction industry, both here in the UK and overseas.  That was a while ago and, as with most new technology these days, 3D printing seems to have progressed in leaps and bounds.  Today we’re going to take a look at some exciting projects that are already harnessing the power of 3D printing.

Bridging the gap between ancient and modern is the world’s biggest 3D printed bridge in Shanghai.  The bridge is 26.3 metres long and its arched form is based on the Anji Bridge in Zhao Xian which, at 1.400 years old is China’s oldest standing bridge.  It was built by a team at the Tsinghua University School of Architecture in Beijing and is constructed of 176 3D printed concrete units, 44 of which are hollow and filled with pebbles.  All components were printed using a composite of polyethylene fibre concrete and admixtures.  Amazingly, this is also considered a “smart” bridge as its embedded with a monitoring system to record how the concrete deforms over time so that the information can be used to help develop the future use of 3D printing for engineering projects.

A team from Columbia University in New York has achieved something quite special – digital wood!  They’ve managed to replicate the external and internal structure and appearance of timber using a 3D printer in a process described as “an unexplored 3D printing process that allows the colour and material structure at every resolvable point of a printed object”.  The study means that the digital replication of objects with complex internal patterns is becoming more viable which was confirmed when the timber block performed in the same manner as timber when it was cut or broken.

Meanwhile, giant Dutch contractor, BAM Infra in collaboration with a materials company has launched Europe’s first industrial concrete printing factory in the Netherlands.  The plant already has orders which include four bicycle bridges for Holland and five printed concrete houses for the Milestone project, a five-year scheme aiming to develop the process of 3D printing homes.  The houses will be printed consecutively to allow researchers to benefit from what is learned on the previous printing and directly adapt the homes to the wishes of residents.

One of the largest hybrid 3D printing machines in the world went live at the beginning of this month – the Large Additive Subtractive Integrated Modular Machine, aka LASIMM.  The machine, which was developed in Spain, is the first of its kind and is unique in featuring metal additive and subtractive capabilities.  With a modular configuration of industrial robot arms and a specialised milling robot (the former for additive manufacture of aluminium and steel, and the latter for machining away surplus materials), the machine is capable of manufacturing components for the most demanding industries, including construction.  Developers claim that the machine will not only lead to a 20% reduction in cost and time, it will also result in a 15% increase in productivity for high volume additive manufacturing production.