Digital design tools have been at the heart of building design for decades, but construction itself has remained a stubbornly manual process. In 2018, Arup and CLS Architetti of Italy proved that a combination of 3D printing robotics could change all that.
1st 3D printed concrete house in EU
48hrsto print the house
From virtual to physical
If the robot is your labourer, the virtual design model is its brain. It powers the robot’s 3D printing arm to reproduce the design in concrete. Bringing the model onsite also allowed architects, engineers, and specialists to collaborate and resolve issues in real time without needing to cross-reference multiple models.
Developing a concrete mix that could keep pace with the super-human speed of the 3D printer and dry in record time was another challenge. Our materials experts virtually modelled concrete mixes and drying times to ensure the physical structure could in fact become reality.
The eco-friendly builder
Although concrete is a naturally sustainable building material, the real benefit is how little waste is involved during construction. The precision of the printing process ensures every centimetre of material is used, making it significantly easier to calculate how much will be needed in the first place. Given 32% of landfill waste is currently generated by the construction industry, this alone is a great advance. We are also experimenting with recycled concrete and natural fibres as building materials, both of which might bring down costs and allow materials to be sourced locally.
The portable printer
Instead of being confined to printing uniform elements in one place, the CyBe Construction RC 3Dp Robot is agile and can produce unique, curved elements at the construction site. In this case – a busy city square in Milan. The robotic arm can also create two storey buildings rapidly, extending up to 4.5 metres into the air. With so much creative flexibility, it’s easy to understand why there is a growing desire in the industry to expedite widespread adoption of 3D printing.
New solutions to old problems
Projects like this demonstrate how new technologies and creative thinking can address long standing challenges. From duplicative structural models to housing shortages, we have a unique opportunity to rapidly test and discover new (and improved) ways to redefine the built environment.