Jan 07, 2019

3D printing opens up a world of design opportunity

3D printing opens up a world of design opportunity

While it might once have seemed like something out of science fiction, a Melbourne academic believes 3D concrete printing has the potential to revolutionise construction around the world.

Swinburne University Director of the Centre for Sustainable Infrastructure, Professor Jay Sanjayan, is massively excited about the possibilities offered by 3D concrete printing in construction, but admits there is a lot of work to be done before it becomes a reality.

“There is certainly a lot of potential with 3D concrete printing, but there are problems to overcome before it actually happens,” Prof Sanjayan said.

Thanks to an Australian Research Council grant, Prof Sanjayan is working with seven other Australian universities in a $1.3 million project to develop the 3D concrete printing technology.

“We’ve set up a centre at Swinburne to continue extensive research into how we can make 3D concrete printing a reality,” Prof Sanjayan said.

He said one of the main issues was developing a way to ensure that concrete didn’t set too quickly within the printer.

“We need to look at how we can ensure the concrete doesn’t go hard while it is still within the machine,” Prof Sanjayan said.

“We don’t want it to set inside the printer, but we do want the concrete to go hard within a few minutes of being poured, so we have to look at how that can be achieved.

“Really we have to come up with a new type of cement and that is the real challenge.”

Prof Sanjayan said as long as challenges could be overcome, 3D concrete printing had the potential to revolutionise construction.

“As an example, I know architects are very excited about what 3D concrete printing could mean,” he said.

“At the moment, architects aren’t inclined to experiment too much with complex designs for buildings because it is too difficult and cost-prohibitive.

“However, 3D concrete printing would make things like curves on buildings much easier to achieve.

“For example, a complex building like the Sydney Opera House would be much easier to build with 3D concrete printing.

“Successful 3D concrete printing opens up a world of opportunity and I’m confident we can have it working successfully within five years.”

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