Trends in 3D Printing
3D Printing as a means of construction began in the late 1990s with the very first attempts to extrude concrete from a computer-controlled robot. Since then, the field has exploded and in 2014 the first commercial 3D printed building was unveiled.
Today, interest and research in technology have snowballed around the world. Companies across all sectors of industry are investing time and energy into 3D printing. Most of the major universities now have ongoing research projects into how 3D printed homes can be built quicker, cheaper and become more suited to the realities of life.
While there are many ways to use 3D printing technologies for construction, two specific technologies are currently dominating the industry:
- Gantry-type 3D printers mainly used for larger construction and on-site
- Robotic-arm 3D printers mainly used for smaller, more complex components
Gantry 3D Printers
The gantry printer operates in 3 dimensions, with the print head moving back and forth on the X-axis which is the first direction. The x-axis moves along the y-axis, which is the second direction. The y-axis (holding the x-axis) moves up and down on the Z-Axis columns, which is the third direction. The gantry principle allows complete freedom of movement within the reach of the printer. Within this area, an entire building can be printed with only one set up of printer, and no need to move and calibrate the printer during the print.
The concrete material is pumped through a hose from the batch plant to the printer head hopper. There the printer head nozzle extrudes the material at the pre-determined rate, thickness, and direction.
Robotic Arm 3D Printer
Robotic arm printers can only print what is in front of it and with a width of the print of 1-1.5 meters. Also, small prints require fast curing of the concrete, typically leading to a much higher cost than that of normal concrete. Larger prints require moving the robotic arm and calibrating the system, which can be time-consuming taking from hours to days for each movement.
Visit the Future Cast website for more info on concrete 3D printing.