Jan 28, 2016 | By Alec

The ongoing race towards the world’s first commercial home construction 3D printer is filled with interesting machines, but all seem to suffer from one big problem. Whichever way you look at it, construction 3D printers do little more than simply extrude a thick, endless stream of grey concrete. While 3D printing is gaining a reputation for detail and accuracy, concrete 3D printers are something of an exception as their added value largely lies in construction speed. However, one Dutch company has made a breakthrough that could change this reputation. The Ede-based company Bruil has not only managed to 3D print concrete in high resolution with actual architectural value, but can even do so in different colors.

If the name Bruil sounds familiar, that’s probably because they have been experimenting with concrete 3D printing before. About a year ago, they showcased some interesting construction results developed in collaboration with industrial 3D printing specialists 3Dealise: a 3D printed 1.6 meter tall H-profile column with an aesthetically pleasing twisting section. That innovation perfectly reflected their intention to develop large-scale 3D printed concrete structures that can be more than basic walls. “With this technology, designers will have the same freedom that 3D printing has to offer and apply it to the construction industry,” said Bruil at the time.

Since then, they have clearly been perfecting their approach to concrete 3D printing, as Bruil is now ready to showcase three 1.6 meter tall structures at Material Xperience and Gevel 2016 in Rotterdam (both 27 to 29 January), all realized with a new architectural 3D printing technique. All are also colored. “Concrete 3D printing is currently largely associated with unfinished grey building frames, such as those that are being developed in China. We want to prove to architects that 3D printing can also be used to change the spatial language of buildings. Eventually, we can even 3D print parametric façade shapes with a high aesthetic value,” Theo Voogd, the manager of Market & Innovation at Bruil, says of this new concrete 3D printing technique.

Essentially, they have developed a method for 3D printing concrete in high resolution. And because they make their own cement on site, they can easily 3D print it in color or even create color shifting effects. While most concrete 3D printers make single constant layer, the Bruil machine is also capable of realizing different patterns – such as waves – to give the architect a creative device, rather than solely a production tool. Their ideas can now thus be realized in concrete, both in terms of shape, color and texture. Theo Voogd therefore predicts that this could be revolutionary in the construction industry, as the architectural influences can be strengthened again. To further accommodate architects, Bruil has also developed custom CAD software that easily translates 3D models into print paths for their custom machine. Importantly, this also gives a preview of the final results before the costly 3D printing process begins.

In short, Bruil is thus working on what could be a breakthrough 3D printing technique. Especially its ability to give architects all the design freedom that you and I have with our desktop 3D printers is revolutionary, and could be just that push the technology needs. Importantly, Bruil adds that their technique is also an affordable design option.

But as is always the case with these kinds of previews, the technology is still under development. Bruil says their technique is still being optimized, while they are also thoroughly experimenting with possible geometries. Bruil is currently expecting that it will take another two years before they become capable of 3D printing large scale projects. But if you can’t wait, they are looking at setting up a number of architectural pilot programs. “This is the perfect time for architects to start experimenting with the design freedoms provided by this new technique,” they say.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Technology

 

 

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