Oct 22, 2017 | By David

As 3D printing technology advances, its benefits are being recognized by a wide range of different industries, from aerospace to healthcare. Construction is another sector that is increasingly taking up the 3D printing mantle. Progress is being made all over the world, and a recent development by Obayashi Corporation could soon make the technology an acceptable solution in the fields of architecture and civil engineering in Japan. The company has developed the country's first 3D printing process for producing concrete structures.

Obayashi Corporation is one of five major Japanese construction companies along with Shimizu Corporation, Takenaka Corporation, Kajima Corporation, and Taisei Corporation. One of the key elements of Obayashi’s system was the use of a 3D printing material that fulfils a range of different construction needs. The cement-based ink was developed by Denka Co. Ltd. Like with most other concrete 3D printing systems, this ink is extruded from a nozzle controlled by a robotic arm. It will later set in place, forming a structure. The 3D printing material is strong and durable, which are crucial properties for buildings and civil engineering structures, and it is also relatively quick to solidify which means it is capable of supporting its own weight without collapsing. A major benefit of 3D printing structures is that no supportive formwork is necessary, thus reducing the amount of labour and time required.

This could be a real game-changer for 3D printing in Japanese construction projects, enabling the technology to be implemented more directly and thus making adoption of the 3D printing process much more feasible. After being extruded by the 3D printer, the cement is then laminated. The robotic arm is programmed offline, in order to move automatically at a constant speed when the ink is ready. It has 7 different axes of movement that it can traverse.

Besides the reduced costs and labor, advantages that 3D printing technology can offer over other construction processes are the speed at which structures can be produced and the level of complexity and intricacy. Constructing curved surfaces and hollow shapes is significantly more straightforward with the 3D printing process. One of the reasons Obayashi Corporation wanted to incorporate 3D printing into their methods was the development of more complex structures which would have improved mechanical properties. They hoped that 3D printing technology would enable a bio-mimetic design process, whereby the structures mimicked properties of living organisms, such as bones that are strong and durable but still relatively lightweight.

To test their new system, Obayashi Corporation 3D printed mortar blocks that were curved and hollow. They measured 500mm x 250mm x 500mm, and were produced in around 15 minutes. The team was then able to successfully construct an arched bridge using these blocks. Research will continue on the project to optimize each stage of the process, particularly the method of programming the robotic arm. An improved version of the 3D printer should eventually be used for various clients in all kinds of construction projects.

The system developed by Obayashi Corporation in Japan comes hot on the heels of various other 3D printing breakthroughs in the global construction industry. The technology has already been implemented for various high-profile projects, such as the world's first 3D printed office building in Dubai and a recreation of the Classical Gardens of Suzhou in China, which is probably leading the pack in terms of state adopters of the technology. In the longer term, countries such as Denmark, Singapore and France are also exploring 3D printed buildings as a solution to social housing issues. Check out our list of the top 26 3D printed construction projects for more on this.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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