Researchers Get Grant for 3D-Printing, Concrete Work
A team of researchers at Penn State’s departments of Architecture, Architectural Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs recently received $50,000 from the College of Engineering’s Engineering for Innovation and Entrepreneurship grant program for its project focused on 3D-printed concrete.
The researchers believe that using 3D-printing technologies to transform concrete construction processes and add new capabilities could “radically transform the construction industry and reduce its carbon footprint.”
Led by principal investigator Ali Memari, the Bernard and Henrietta Hankin Chair of Residential Construction, and professor of architectural engineering and civil engineering, the team has built on its successful experience in NASA’s 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Challenge to commercialize its unique concrete mix and 3D-printing system.
Co-PIs on the project include Sven Bilén, head of the School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs, and professor of engineering design, aerospace engineering and electrical engineering; Aleksandra Radlinska, associate professor of civil engineering; Nicholas Meisel, assistant professor of engineering design and mechanical engineering; and three faculty from the College of Arts and Architecture including José Pinto Duarte, professor and Stuckeman Chair in Design Innovation and director of the Stuckeman Center for Design Computing; Shadi Nazarian, associate teaching professor; and Maryam Hojati, postdoctoral researcher.
Expanding on its cement-free MarsCrete product, the researchers are designing high-performance, sustainable concrete through the development of a new cement-based mixture, primarily for home building and small building construction.
Funds from the grant are being used to complete proof-of-concept testing on the new mixture and some innovative reinforcement concepts, according to the university. The team has designed a 3D-printer system consisting of a dual mixer and pump that feeds a nozzle manipulated by an industrial six-axis robotic arm.
“The concrete formulations and the printer system are tightly coupled, as the design of one affects the design of the other,” Bilén said.
“We have to work from the micro-scale to the macro-scale. Our work is also tightly coupled to the architectural designs that can be realized via our materials and printing methods. All three—materials, printing system and architecture— must be considered together.”
Through three parallel, interdisciplinary streams of research—material mixture, material characterization and design, and printing process and system—and its interdisciplinary nature, the team says it can better understand the effects of each variable on the printing process. According to the researchers, this will allow better control of the printing system, ultimately creating successful structures.