As perhaps the most versatile technology in the world, 3D printing plays a role in an incredible number of different industries. It’s been incredibly influential in the medical industry, helping to create new solutions for patients young and old.
It’s being used in aerospace, in automotive manufacturing and more. However, one area where it has a lot of potential but very little actual use is in construction.
That might be changing thanks to a new concrete 3D printing technique developed by Amalgamma.
The New Concrete Printing Technique
Concrete 3D printing isn’t really new. It’s been around in one form or another for several years at this point.
However, there are problems here. Depending on the type of printing setup used, many of these systems use a large amount of material.
Others are only suitable for printing small scale items. Yet others are too costly for anything but major firms to buy them.
Amalgamma might have a solution.
The new technique actually combines two different types of concrete 3D printing – powder bed printing and extrusion. The benefits here are that the technique uses far less material, and it can be used for anything from printing furniture to creating entire buildings.
Amalgamma’s team is made of up students from the Bartlett School of Architecture, all of whom are pursuing their master’s degree. The system is named “Fossilized”, and it promises to offer a lower cost, more scalable solution to the world’s pending housing crisis.
Basically, the system uses what’s called “supported extrusion” printing. Ready-mix concrete is extruded using an ABB robotic arm.
The arm follows a preprogrammed path and lays down concrete as it goes. The custom tool head attached to the arm has a resolution of 1 centimeter, and is able to build the print layer by layer, much like a conventional 3D printer.
Powder bed 3D printing is included when a second tool head adds a layer of powdered support material around the previously printed layer. The binder in this material helps to support the print and harden the concrete for better strength and rigidity.
“Due to the support, the resulting concrete is of a much higher resolution with large overhangs,” the team explained. “The supported extrusion method has therefore presented the opportunity to design forms that are more varied and more volumetric, as opposed to the very straight vertical forms so far achieved in 3D concrete practice.
The finalized 3D printing process therefore combines a dual material nozzle of concrete and binder, which connects to an industrial robot and prints both materials in the same routine.”
With that being said, the new system isn’t ideal for creating entire structures from beginning to end. However, the team does foresee it playing a role in printing large sections of buildings that would then be taken to the site and installed or assembled, shortening the construction time and reducing costs.