This giant 3D printer can build concrete objects


This kingsize 3D printer can builds concrete objects up to 36’ long, 16’ wide and 13’ tall. 


Recently, several companies, Makers and architects have been diligently working towards creating a viable 3D printer that could build structures out of concrete. Joining them are a team of researchers from Eindhoven University of Technology, who’ve begun to employ a kingsize machine capable of printing objects 36 feet long, 16 feet wide and 13 feet tall. And while it may not be as enormous as WASP’s 40-foot-tall Big Delta that aims to quickly produce homes in impoverished areas, it does boast a rather impressive print space — something which will surely come in handy for those in the construction industry.

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The printer, which was developed by Dutch company ROHACO, is extremely precise and shares a resemblance to an overhead hoisting crane in a production hall. The only difference is that, instead of a hoisting cable, the system features a jointed, swivel printer head that’s connected to a concrete mixing and pump unit.

According to professor Theo Salet and PhD student Rob Wolfs, the concrete 3D printer will surely open up a wide range of new possibilities. This, of course, calls for new knowledge, building techniques and materials to properly operate.

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“One such new possibility lies in making very fine concrete structures. In traditional concrete pouring the formwork determines the ultimate shape of the concrete, and that is quite unwieldy. Concrete printing will enable builders to make details as small as a pea,” the team explains.

Aside from that, the researchers have plans to 3D print various types, qualities and colors of material, simulatenously. For instance, they envision the ability to construct an entire wall with fiber-reinforced concrete for enhanced support, an active insulation layer to retain heat, dirt-repelling concrete on the outside to keep it clean and a layer on the inside that improves the acoustics. Salet calls this “concrete 2.0,” as builders will be able to easily incorporate the needs of individuals users in the production process.

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What’s more, they are looking to take this process to the next level, with aspirations of integrating smart components into the concrete printing on the spot, like wireless sensors that measure temperature or lighting that are triggered when someone walks into a room.

However, this sort of innovation is still several years out. Although functional at the moment, there are a few challenges associated with the gigantic printer that must first be overcome. While extruding a new layer, they must ensure that the underlying layer has enough bearing capacity to keep it from collapsing. Additionally, this layer should be moist enough to adhere to new ones. The team is working to find new types of concrete that can comply with these requirements.

Intrigued? Head over to the Eindhoven University of Technology’s page here.

[Images: Rien Meulman via TU Eindhoven]

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