Skanska takes 3D printing from lab to industry

 

Loughborough University's Freeform

Skanska and Loughborough University are working together to take 3D printing technology for concrete construction from the lab out into industry. The collaboration agreement will allow Skanska to apply technology developed through research at Loughborough University, under license. 

Loughborough’s School of Civil and Building Engineering has been working on the development of 3D printing technology for construction for seven years. The team has developed 3D concrete printers fitted to a gantry and robotic arm, which is now in its second-generation form. The printer deposits high–performance concrete precisely under computer control, laying down successive layers until the entire object is created. The printer can make things that cannot be manufactured by conventional processes, such as complex structural components, curved cladding panels and architectural features.

The aim of the initial 18-month programme is to develop the world’s first commercial concrete printing robot. Partners working with Skanska include Foster and Partners, Buchan Concrete, ABB and Lafarge Tarmac. Skanska aims to explore opportunities opened up by the new technology and help develop a 3D printing supply chain.

Rob Francis, Skanska’s director of innovation and business improvement, said: “3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours. We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency which has never been seen before in construction.”

Dr Richard Buswell from the building energy research group at Loughborough University said: “We have been convinced of its [the 3D concrete printing technology] viability in the lab, but it now needs industry to adapt the technology to service real applications in construction and architecture.”

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