Firm foundations with 3D concrete printing
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Firm foundations with 3D concrete printing

The MTC works in collaboration with Skanska, Foster + Partners, Tarmac, ABB, and Loughborough University to develop a 3D concrete printing system for industrial applications.

Up until November 2016 we were doing everything ourselves and had taken it as far as we could, but by joining the MTC we now have proper lab and research facilities to conduct further tests and work on the project full-time.
David Lewis, innovation manager, Skanska UK

The Challenge

  • The consortium behind the project were looking to further develop and industrialise the 3D concrete printing (3DCP) system, originally developed by Loughborough University.
  • It would increase the scope of pre-cast 3D concrete printing with the aim to become the world’s first high-value commercial 3DCP system, that would be portable, offer endless variability, increase productivity, reduce lead times and waste compared to current casting methods.

MTC's solution

  • The system was moved to the MTC in early 2016 and redesigned for safe handling of materials and robot operation.
  • The deposition head was upgraded to improve control and cleaning.
  • Improved setup and clean down processes to enhance ease of use.
  • Improved material knowledge and understanding of the effects of each ingredient within the 3DCP material recipe with the assistance of Tarmac.
  • Repeatability testing of prints designed by Foster + Partners to ensure robustness of the system

The Outcome

  • The ability to resolve material issues and highlight areas for future improvement activities.
  • Normalisation of process, improving repeatability and consistency of prints.
  • Development of the concrete dispenser resulting in the reduction in footprint, mass and cost.
  • Tooling design improvements allowing for more complex shapes to be printed.
  • Development of future 3DCP system shifting from batch process to continuous process for increased flexibility.

Benefits to the client

  • Improvement in print design complexity with improvements in flexibility, repeatability and consistency.
  • Elimination of manual handling activities.
  • Improved safety and reduced complexity for 3DCP operators.
  • Increased productivity, with reduced lead time and process downtime.
  • Reduced production of waste.
We want to perfect the technology, but the end plan would be to make it smaller and mobile so it can be used on any site.
Sam Stacey, Director of Innovation and Business Development, Skanska UK