Jan 16, 2019 | By Cameron

3D printing with concrete is all the rage right now amongst the big wigs in the construction industry, and Europe is jumping on that enthusiasm with the opening of its first industrial concrete 3D printing facility, which is in Eindhoven, Netherlands. The project is a collaboration between BAM Infra, Saint-Gobain Weber Beamix, Bekaert, Witteveen+Bos, Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e), and Van Wijnen.

Bas Huysmans, Managing Director of Weber Beamix, explains the formation of the partnership: “In the mid-nineties, we already started printing concrete, but then there was no market for it, so when twenty years later someone from Eindhoven University of Technology knocked on the door and wanted to start a project to print concrete, we were immediately enthusiastic.”

Theo Salet, a professor at TU/e, was that person, who stated,  “Four years ago I started a study into 3D printing of concrete. I didn’t want to do that alone, so I started looking for partners.”

Once they found each other, they got right to work on building rather than waiting to find customers. Salet elaborated, “We have done scientific research that can be applied directly in the construction industry. The step between research and practice is often very large in the construction sector. Now we have done it the other way around. Bam-Infra and Beamix have been involved in the research from the start. This is a good example of parties who have found a middle ground between production and research. The partners were very interested in the knowledge we had built up at the TU/e.”

He expects that interested parties will help drive the development of the system. “Now the printer is there, but tomorrow they will come to me to say that printing should be faster. They can now see the possibilities of the project and stimulate us to develop them. This will be a healthy marriage between industry, the university, and the construction industry," said Salet. “There is still a lot of room for improvement. As you can see here, the speed of printing is still far too slow, it should be ten times faster. There is also much to gain in the materials. We can think of new types of concrete, for example in different colours, different reinforcement or lightweight variants.”

One can guess where they’d like to take the technology. If not, Huysmans laid it out, “I think 3D printing of concrete has a fantastic future. For us, the ultimate goal is to be able to print a house on the construction site.” To get there, Marco Vonk of Weber Beamix relates the next steps of the project, “The first houses of Project Milestone will be printed in elements here and assembled on location. We hope that the last of the five houses can be printed on location, but that’s still very difficult. Here it is always 18 degrees and we have a constant humidity, but outside you can’t control that. For example, if the temperature drops below 5 degrees, the concrete will not cure at all.”

Arguments for using 3D printing in the construction industry continue to strengthen with the addition of every 3D printed bridge, and the Eindhoven facility will be 3D printing four bicycle bridges in North Holland for its first order.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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