Aug 29, 2017 | By Tess

The Centre for Sustainable Infrastructure at the Swinburne University of Technology in Australia has received the Excellence in Technology and Innovation award from the Concrete Institute of Australia (CIA). The prize was given for the center's cutting-edge concrete 3D printing process.

The now prize-winning method uses cement and geopolymer binding materials to additively manufacture complex structures which could revolutionize concrete-based construction processes.

Miniature 3D printed model of Sydney Opera House made using the geopolymer cement

Concrete 3D printing, an area of additive manufacturing which is being explored by various groups and companies around the world, is arguably one of the most promising applications of 3D printing.

That is, building up concrete structures layer by layer instead of having to mold them with formworks could open up the possibilities for architecture design in a big way, and could cut down on construction costs significantly.

“At Swinburne we have successfully made the first inroads into [concrete 3D printing] by separately using Portland cement and geopolymers as binders in 3D printing machines,” explained Jay Sanjayan, the director of the Centre and a professor of Concrete Studies at Swinburne.

“Engineering and architectural designers are currently constrained to rectilinear designs due to the requirements of formwork systems. 3D printing will provide the freedom to produce a structural component independent of the shape.”

The Swinburne team’s concrete 3D printing technology uses a 3D printer that has been specially adapted to accommodate a cement material and fine geopolymer aggregates. The geopolymer particles function as binding agents as the cement is extruded into a solid concrete structure.

Left to right: Wade Noonan, Minister for Industry and Employment and Minister for Resources; Professor Jay Sanjayan; and Andrew Sarkady, President of the Victorian Branch of Concrete Institute of Australia

After much research into the technology and various 3D printing tests, the researchers say they were able to determine the optimal particle size distributions for the binder and cement material, as well as the best deposition method for printing with concrete.

Notably, the research team has been working with geopolymers sourced from industrial by-products, giving the project a distinct environmental edge.

“We have also shown that geopolymers produced from industrial by-products are a sustainable alternative to the Portland cement system and are more suitable for the 3D printing process as well as how post-processing methods can increase the strengths,” said Sanjayan.

Sanjayan’s research projects for Swinburne’s Centre for Sustainable Infrastructure have revolved around the use of geopolymers in concrete, how different cement mixtures compare in terms of strength and durability, and now the potentials of additive manufacturing concrete.

With the recent recognition from CIA, there is little doubt that he will continue his innovative 3D printing work and help to advance the flourishing field of construction 3D printing.

“Professor Sanjayan’s team has demonstrated the viability of 3D printing powder-based technology for construction applications,” added Professor Emad Gad, the dean of Swinburne’s School of Engineering.



Posted in 3D Printing Technology



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