Jan 21, 2016 | By Kira
A group of Masters students from the Bartlett School of Architecture has developed a new method for 3D printing concrete that combines two existing 3D printing methods, extrusion and powder bed printing, to 3D print large and structurally sound architectural elements or furniture pieces, while using the least amount of material possible. Called Fossilized, this new 3D printing construction method could offer a more viable solution for construction-based 3D printing.
Companies from China to Italy to the Netherlands have been racing to develop novel methods for 3D printing houses, buildings, and architectural structures that are as cost-effective as they are safe, study, and realistically attainable. Many existing methods for 3D printing buildings consist of either using extremely large 3D printers to build the house on-location, or extruding large concrete blocks in a factory, which are then brought to the site and assembled.
So far, however, neither of these processes has proven to be entirely viable. The former can be prohibitively expensive, while the latter, where large blocks are assembled on-site, is not unlike traditional construction processes.
Aiming to “challenge standardized concrete prefabrication techniques,” Amalgamma, comprised of Masters students Alvaro Lopez Rodriguez, Francesca Camilleri, Nadia Doukhi, and Roman Strukov, is instead proposing a fabrication method that combines two existing concreted 3D printing methods to create a form of “supported extrusion.”
The Fossilized 3D printing technique consists of extruding ready-mixed concrete using an industrial ABB robotic arm programmed to follow a linear fabrication tool path—this is essentially how the D-Shape or other construction 3D printers work as well. The concrete is pumped out through a customized tool head that extrudes at 1cm resolution, building up the pre-defined 3D structure layer by layer.
Alongside this extrusion method, however, Fossilized also takes advantage of powder bed 3D printing, in which a binding agent is injected into the print bed, hardening powdered material into solid objects. Powder bed printing allows for more complex, oddly shaped 3D printed designs.
Thus, as each concrete layer is deposited, a second customized tool head also deposits a layer of granular or powdered support material around the concrete. A binder is incorporated into the extrusion process that detects weaknesses and hardens certain parts of the granular support, producing a multi-material, 3D printed piece.
“Due to the support, the resulting concrete is of a much higher resolution with large overhangs,” said Amalgamma. “The supported extrusion method has therefore presented the opportunity to design forms that are more varied and more volumetric, as opposed to the very straight vertical forms so far achieved in 3D concrete practice.”
“The finalized 3D printing process therefore combines a dual material nozzle of concrete and binder which connects to an industrial robot and print both materials in the same routine,” concluded the creators.
Although they admit that the Fossilised concrete 3D printing method is not ideal for 3D printing entire architectural structures start to finish, it could still be used for 3D printing a floor-wall-ceiling assembly, or a stair-floor-wall assembly as one whole architectural chunk. Though these ‘chunks’ would still need to be assembled on-site, the new 3D printing process allows for time and material savings, as well as entirely new ‘tectonic qualities’ compared to traditional construction methods:
“Through a combination of heterogeneous chunks that are fabricated by varying the properties of the material through a linear tool path at every layer printed, it becomes possible to reduce material, save time and also achieve a design that is evokes continuity, structural directionality, design hierarchy, density variation and multi-materiality and continuity in a single form.”
To demonstrate the Fossilised concrete 3D printing technique, Amalgamma produced a 3D printed table (pictured above) and 3D printed column, which were presented at the AD Bartlett show last October. The team intends to continue exploring the multi-material aspect of this concrete 3D printing method, and eventually they hope to 3D print a non-standard wall-window assembly, “essentially, a translucent 3D printed concrete structure.”
Several other novel projects in 3D printed construction include the Apis Cor circular mobile 3D printer, ETH Zurich's Mesh-Mould 3D printing, and Joris Laarman's 3D printed metal bridge in Amsterdam.
Posted in 3D Printing Technology
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