University Develops 3D Concrete Printing Method

FRIDAY, APRIL 14, 2023

Researchers at the University of Michigan have reportedly developed a method for creating ultra-lightweight, waste-free concrete through 3D printing. According to the release, the method reduces weight by 72% compared to conventional, solid concrete of the same size.

The work was created by architect Mania Aghaei Meibodi and researchers Alireza Bayramvand and Yuxin Lin of the DART lab at U-M’s A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

About the Method

Traditional methods to 3D concrete printing (3DCP) reportedly have geometric limitations that restrict its application to simple shapes like orthogonal walls. Construction sites use a planer toolpath, parallel to the ground or along a single plane, to guide the 3DCP tool head that extrudes mortar from the printer head and deposits it in horizontal layers.

Then, after each layer is deposited, the extruder nozzle is raised by the height of the deposited layer. This process is repeated to create a concrete mold, which is later filled with rebars and concrete.

“This leads to high concrete consumption and limits its application for lightweight forms that entail intricate shapes like branching and angular tubular forms, overhangs, layer cantilevers, and filament section or angle variations,” said Aghaei Meibodi, assistant professor of architecture at Taubman College.

However, U-M’s new approach reportedly demonstrates a computational design and robotic 3D printing technology that effectively combines topology optimization with 3D concrete printing, dubbed the “Shell Wall.”

Topology optimization generates the most efficient distribution of material based on performance criteria, like strength or weight. The team then created a computational model that synergizes nonplanar and variable material deposition based on the shape and geometric features of the topology-optimized parts.

This allows for efficient use of material by placing it precisely where it’s needed for structural purposes, “and eliminates unnecessary overbuilding with excessive amounts of materials,” Aghaei Meibodi said. “All of these factors combined mean that we can build better, more environmentally friendly structures at a lower cost.” 

According to Bayramvand and Lin, previous research has explored nonplanar 3D printing with polymer-based materials for intricate geometries, but using concrete—a more challenging material—has received limited attention.

U-M reports that the DART Lab technological advancements have gained notice from leaders in 3D concrete construction, such as the Peri Group, ICON and WASP.

Recent U-M Architecture Research

Last month, it was reported that the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning at U-M is also utilizing its lab to improve the application of artificial intelligence in architecture and robotic fields.

The Architecture and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or AR2IL, is an interdisciplinary lab that is bringing together experts from across the field and other universities to discuss this emerging paradigm shift in architecture, the school says.

According to the lab’s website, the research is specifically in the area of artificial intelligence and architecture design, fusing the agencies of design with robotics and computer science. The research also focuses on very specific problems, such as 3D applications of AI in architecture using meshes, or image segmentation to recognize and organize architectural spaces.

The university reports that in order to produce good AI data, architects need to contribute their data input early and often.

Databases will reportedly provide vital components as AI expands from so-called “expert systems” that process only the input data to inform decisions, to systems that leverage the multitude of data by searching through it for recurring patterns or features and assembling them into unique designs.


Tagged categories: 3D printing; 3D Printing; Architects; Architecture; Asia Pacific; Colleges and Universities; Commercial / Architectural; Commerial/Architectural; concrete; Design; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Good Technical Practice; Latin America; North America; Program/Project Management; Projects - Commercial; Research; Research and development; Technology; Z-Continents

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