University Researching 3D-Printed Concrete Projects


A research team from the Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) is reportedly working to make the 3D printing of concrete faster, stronger and more resilient for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Through our research, we hope to develop new fiber-reinforced concrete composites that can be 3D printed,” said Dr. Kamal Khayat, S&T’s Vice Chancellor for Research and Innovation.

“This type of printing can allow for faster construction of protective battlefield structures including temporary bridges, military barracks, guardhouses, bunkers and blast-resistant shields, which can reduce risks to soldiers in volatile areas.”

About the Research

According to the university’s release, researchers are working on two projects funded by grants, including $320,000 through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This project began in April 2022 and will reportedly last four years, examining three different strength classes of concrete and developing quality-control test methods for 3D printing.

The second grant, totaling $360,000 and awarded to S&T through Florida International University, was awarded in the fall of 2022 and will be ongoing until August 2025. This project examines ultra-high-performance concrete and how it can be used for 3D printing with three different construction methods: layer-by-layer, sprayed concrete and stay-in-place formwork systems.

“There are distinct differences between the aims and scope of work of these grants, but they have the same general goals in mind in advancing the state-of-the-art additive construction of concrete structures,” said Khayat.

“For both, we are aiming to print fiber-reinforced concrete into intricate shapes with no form work and with little or no reinforcing steel that is typically required to resist tensile stresses in reinforced concrete structures.”

Khayat anticipates that this type of 3D printing construction will be of “great benefit” to the U.S. military and construction companies.

“This is something that could be done quickly and can overcome weight and logistics obstacles associated with using concrete for rapid construction or the repair of needed battlefield infrastructure,” he said

“3D-printed concrete can also be crucial for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief applications. People will be able to use materials that are locally available, such as natural pozzolans, dune or crushed sand, and natural fibers to make a cost-effective fiber-reinforced concrete for 3D printing.”

Additionally, he notes that this type of construction is the “way of the future.”

“Many other industries have embraced advanced manufacturing and use of robotics for some time,” he says. “3D printing technology and the development of special sensors and use of AI can expand construction automation, which can lead to greater safety on construction sites and reduce labor-intensive and time-consuming construction operations.”

FIU Grant Award

In December, Florida International University received a $3.2 million grant from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to research the 3D printing of Ultra-High Performance Concrete (UHPC). According to the release, the research looks to help military personnel and industry professionals create extra-strong, customized structures such as bridges on demand.

Reportedly stronger and more durable than traditional concrete, UHPC is projected to become very important to the construction industry in the coming years, said Atorod Azizinamini, Director of Infrastructure Research and Innovation at the Office of Research & Economic Development and Professor of Civil Engineering at the FIU College of Engineering & Computing.

Additionally, it is difficult for water to penetrate UHPC, protecting reinforcing steel in structures from substances like saltwater that leads to corrosion, according to FIU.

In theory, FIU reports, elaborate construction pieces could be created custom by sending a file to a machine. Military personnel in the field could, for example, print support beams for bridges, or a construction worker in a remote area could print a reinforcement piece for a building with the UHPC material, a printer and a design.

The challenge, however, is that each layer of UHPC begins to solidify as it is laid down, which could cause inconsistencies to form at the seams as layers of UHPC are stacked in a printed design. FIU reports that its research will concentrate on determining what exact chemical compositions of UHPC best prevent these vulnerable seams from forming.

Professors will reportedly come up with recommendations for three types of 3D printing: printing layers, spraying layers and a new extrusion type of printing that FIU is patenting. A specific “ingredient list” for UHPC will also aid in the fact that concrete is often locally sourced, with its chemical composition changing from location to location.

Azizinamini estimates that a cubic yard of UHPC is selling at less than 10% of the price of when it was first commercially released, making the material more affordable and practical to use. According to FIU, the research grant was secured with the support of members of Congress.


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Asia Pacific; Building materials; Colleges and Universities; concrete; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Funding; Grants; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Technology; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Ultra high performing concrete (UHPC); Z-Continents

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