Jun 14, 2017 | By Tess

A team from ETH Zurich took home first place for Design Innovation at the 26th Concrete Canoe Regatta for its partially 3D printed canoe. Held in Cologne, the biennial event brings together participants from universities all over Europe to see who can design the lightest, fastest, most beautiful, and most innovative concrete canoe.

For the 26th edition of the Concrete Canoe Regatta, more than 1,000 participants were there to see a total of 90 concrete canoes paddled down the Rhine river. This year, and for the third consecutive time, ETH Zurich’s innovative canoe, with a 3D printed formwork, was awarded first prize for Design Innovation.

Dubbed SkelETHon, the concrete canoe was the result of a collaboration between ETH Zurich, Digital Building Technologies (DBT), and the Physical Chemistry of Building Materials (PCBM) Group. According to a post by ETH, DBT provided its expertise in computational design and digital fabrication, while PCBM Group was responsible for developing the concrete mixes and construction-based processes used to make the boat’s structure.

Now, let’s take a look at what makes this concrete SkelETHon canoe so innovative. The boat, which weighs 114 kg and spans four meters in length, was made using a number of fabrication techniques. For the design, DBT offered its Free Formwork software, which was used to make the intricate design and structure of the boat.

As you may have guessed from the canoe’s name, it is set apart by its skeletal structure, which was first constructed using 3D printing. That is, to make the canoe, the ETH team first 3D printed a submillimeter-thin plastic formwork, which they then cast in an ultra-high-performance fiber-reinforced concrete material. This concrete skeleton weighed about 4 kg and was notable for a high-resolution surface texture with details as precise as 0.5 mm.

3D printed plastic formwork (above); concrete formwork (below)

This texture, explains ETH, was designed to increase the contact area between the formwork and the outer skin. The skeletal formwork itself was designed “using topology and shape optimization algorithms which reduce the material of a traditional canoe design and redistribute it in a skeleton-like structure in order to maximize the stiffness of the boat.” The boat’s outer layer consists of a 3 mm thick waterproof concrete skin.

“The construction process made possible a highly complex concrete skeleton with bones as thin as 15 millimetres in diameter which would be impossible to fabricate with any other digital fabrication technologies,” reads an ETH post about the concrete canoe. “3D printing, a precious fabrication process, was used minimally, but had a significant impact on the overall design.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Jonas Scott wrote at 6/15/2017 10:19:06 PM:

So, some design companies helped the students design and build thier canoe. How is this different than Mom and Dad helping little Johnny with his science fair project? It's not impressive if professionals are involved.

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive