Sweden-based construction and development firm Skanska and UK-based Loughborough University have agreed to develop the use of 3D printing in construction.

The agreement allows Skanska to license 3D concrete printing technology developed through research at the university, applying it to real applications.

A team in the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough, led by Dr Richard Buswell and Professor Simon Austin, have worked on the development of 3D printing technology for the construction industry since 2007. The project was started under the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC). The team has developed 3D concrete printers fitted to a gantry and a robotic arm, which is now in its second-generation form.

The printer deposits a high–performance concrete under computer control. It works by laying down successive layers of concrete until the entire object is created. The printer can make things which cannot be manufactured by conventional processes such as complex structural components, curved cladding panels and architectural features.

Alex Chausovsky, senior principal analyst, Industrial Automation, IHS Technology, writes in the Q4 2014 issue of IHS Quarterly that consumer products/electronics is expected to account for 21% of additive manufacturing sales in 2014. Architectural applications are expected to account for 2% of total sales.

The aim of the initial 18-month development program between Skansa and Loughborough University is to develop a commercial concrete printing robot. Working with Skanska are a number of collaborators including Foster and Partners, Buchan Concrete, ABB and Lafarge Tarmac.

Rob Francis, Skanska’s Director of Innovation and Business Improvement says 3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication center has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from “weeks to hours.”

Additional Resources:

3D Printing and House Construction

Webinar: The Impact of 3D Printing on Industrial Automation

IHS Technology: 3D Printing in Industrial Manufacturing Report 2014

IHS Quarterly: A New Manufacturing Blueprint?