Technical, economic and environmental potentials of 3D printing with concrete

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Scientists present a vision on 3D printing with concrete, considering technical, economic and environmental aspects.

Although several showcases of 3D printed concrete structures are available worldwide, many challenges remain at the technical and processing level. Currently available high-performance cement-based materials cannot be directly 3D printed, because of inadequate rheological and stiffening properties. Active rheology control (ARC) and active stiffening control (ASC) will provide new ways of extending the material palette for 3D printing applications.

Increasing the economic efficiency of construction processes

From an economic point of view, digitally manufactured concrete (DFC) will induce changes in the stakeholders as well as in the cost structure. Although it is currently too ambitious to quantitatively present the cost structure, DFC presents many potential opportunities to increase cost-effectiveness of construction processes. The environmental impact of 3D printing with concrete has to be seen in relation to the shape complexity of the structure.

Increased shape complexity with reduced material input

Implementing structural optimisation as well as functional hybridisation as design strategies allows the use of material only where is structurally or functionally needed. This design optimisation increases shape complexity, but also reduces material use in DFC. As a result, it is expected that for structures with the same functionality, DFC will environmentally perform better over the entire service life in comparison with conventionally produced concrete structures.

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