Published on: Apr 12, 2017
The way 3D printing technology is progressing it is just a matter of time before it replaces brickwork in buildings considerably if not entirely. At the core of the technology is the infill mechanism that is similar to the extruder technology of a 3D printer. Italy based WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) which is doing pioneering research and development of 3D technology for building construction and various other applications, has developed Big Delta, which is a 12 meter high and 7 meter wide giant 3D printer assembled with 6 meter long modular arms. All the machine components have a maximum length of 3 meters so that they can be easily loaded on a trailer and transported easily.
The Big Delta can move the extruder with a maximum load of 200 kg although WASP engineers suggest that it works optimally with reduced vibrations when the material load is round 40-50 kg. As per the study by the WASP team, blends of several long fiber-materials can be extruded to create the building walls. This choice of long fiber material is at the heart of the WASP project as they have been convinced since the beginning that mud and straw is the best blend of material that can be extruded by Big Delta. They also suggest that it is not necessary to mince the fiber into smaller pieces as it works much better when long.
These are the first attempts at replacing brick and mortar and there is still some time for them to become technically and commercially viable. As a pioneering initiative in the development of 3D printing technology for building and construction, WASP hasn’t confined its research to just finding a replacement for brick and mortar. Rather, they have recognized the importance of cement mixture in construction work and have used their extruder technology to demonstrate optimum use of cement mortar. A ton of cement generates a ton of Co2 but with 3D printing it can be reduced by more than half through programmed in-fills, using the extruder.
Researchers at WASP have developed a system to produce concrete elements that can be assembled with steel bars and beams as well as construct pillars in reinforced concrete. Today, with 3D printing it is possible to create curved and hollow elements, as well as specific features that would normally require complex wooden moulds for fresh concrete which is costlier. Tests are being carried out on three meter long beams intended to check the mechanical performance of new reinforced concrete mixture. On the other hand, testing of new assembly systems using pre-stressing technology is undergoing development.