UK High-Speed Rail to Utilize 'Printfrastructure'


The joint venture working on the United Kingdom’s $147 billion high-speed rail system HS2, has recently announced plans to use 3D-printed concrete on the project.

The team—composed of Skanska, U.K. civil contractor Costain and Austrian contractor Strabag—plans to print concrete structures onsite utilizing the technology.


Dubbed “printfrastructure,” the 3D-printing technology is slated for testing by the Skanska Costain STRABAG JV on the HS2.

The new rail system will connect London, the Midlands, the North and Scotland, but also aims to further connect rail capacity across the country and rebalance the country’s economy. Once completed, the rail line is slated to serve over 25 stations, including eight of Britain’s 10 largest cities and connecting around 30 million people.

“The project SCS JV and Changemaker 3D are collaborating on is a fantastic demonstration of the kind of far-reaching innovations HS2 enables, “ said HS2 Innovation Manager, Rob Cairns. “With a build program spanning the decade and across the country, the project is creating an ideal environment to develop technologies with the potential to transform how major infrastructure is built.”

According to a press release issued by Skanska earlier this year, by printing structures onsite of the 330-mile-long rail project could cut emissions in half in comparison to traditional shipping and prefabricated methods or mixing and pouring on location.

In addition to the technology’s low carbon, quick drying properties, the 3D concrete printing will also be able to be utilized in physically restricted areas, depleting the need to develop expensive logistical plans.

Developed by Skanska partner, ChangeMaker 3D, the technology works by using a computer-controlled robot which enables the reinforced concrete structures to be printed with a unique strengthening internal structure that both reduces waste and the quantity of concrete needed.

By removing steel and simplifying the construction process, this project—and others where the technology utilized—could eliminate the use of cranes and significantly reduce the use of delivery trucks.

“Automation enabled by Printfrastructure’s 3D reinforced concrete printing creates a factory-like environment that delivers a high-quality product that both increases efficient use of materials and reduces our carbon footprint,” said Skanska Costain STRABAG JV Temporary Works Manager, Andrew Duck.

“It is important that we give technologies such as Printfrastructure the opportunity to flourish because of the possibilities it offers the industry to make a step change in how projects are delivered.”

The innovative technology is slated have its first test deployment in spring 2022. The railway is projected to finish its first phase, a line from London to Birmingham, by 2026. For more information about the project’s phases, click here.

Other 3D Printing Trials

Also in the U.K., United Utilities was recently reported to have launched a partnership with Changemaker 3D on the development of print made-to-measure objects out of sustainable concrete onsite for the country’s water sector.

According to United Utilities, onsite printed wastewater distribution chambers could reduce carbon emissions by 25%, with a 20% reduction in cost and even bigger savings in time and labor.

The method of 3D-printing wastewater infrastructure was first incubated in the water company’s Innovation Lab—an annual event where the water giant opens up its wealth of data, systems and expert knowledge to incubate new ideas and help bring them to market. It is reported that Changemaker 3D was one of eight finalists to emerge from the event.

After being selected, ChangeMaker 3D enlisted strategic input from long-standing partners AutoMutatio, change management experts, and Constructure, a leading consultant in structural design.

Together the team modeled a real-life wastewater distribution chamber, which was being built at a site in Cumbria. Over the course of ten weeks, an accurate digital model was created for the 1.8-meter-diameter cylindrical chamber, including interior dividing walls, which in real-life would be partially submerged 1.4 meters below ground.

Next, the companies plan to 3D-print a prototype offsite before subjecting it to rigorous testing as a means of examining its strength and durability. If successful, the approach is slated to be demoed live in front of United Utilities’ construction partners in November.

Changemaker 3D is also working with advanced engineering materials group Versarien to integrate graphene into its concrete as well. If successful, the move could reportedly unlock the 3D-printing of structures with reduced embedded carbon content.


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Carbon footprint; concrete; Emissions; EU; Europe; Ongoing projects; Printfrastructure; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Rail

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