You can now add Skanska - one of the world's leading construction and project development firms - to the list of builders using 3d concrete printing.
And while many of the large scale structures around the world that have already been 3d printed are fascinating and sometimes practical, Skanska's development of the technology indicates a more serious commitment to having 3d printers create buildings from the world's top developers.
“It comes out [of the nozzle] at around 10 kN of strength,” said Innovation Manager David Lewis. He was talking about the concrete that his team's 3d printers are laying down at a research facility in the heart of England.
In North America, Europe and Asia, homes and offices have already been created using 3d concrete printing techniques, however it's the interest and investment by firms such as Skanska which have the potential to propel the technology forward within the construction industry and affect global development.
“The thickness can be set to 9, 10, 15 or 20 mm at the moment. The reliability of the mix is definitely the biggest challenge,” Lewis said, noting that the liquid concrete his team is working on has to be strong enough to hold up corresponding layers during printing, while at the same time soft enough to provide good bondage.
The research being undertaken by Skanksa and it's partners, including Loughborough University, is rather secretive according to a wide ranging interview with Construction News, suggesting a modicum of importance that the researchers place on this young but promising technology.
“I didn’t expect [industrialisation] to be as complicated as it is,” he said. “The upside of that, though, is that it will be harder for our competitors to copy this – it is quite difficult to make this work [at scale].”