3D Printed Walls: From Soft to Indestructible

June 7, 2018
building walls

New Walls To Build in Time

We know that 3D printing now have capacities to build larger structures. The technology has made leaps in various trials and studies made known that plane parts, whole cars, and even whole houses can be constructed from the bottom up using 3D printing. Building walls seemed not a far-fetched idea, but so far, 3D-printed materials commonly used are soft and flexible during printing, susceptible to collapse or falling over.

Conventionally, concrete deposited is allowed to harden over a period of time before the next level of concrete is put on top of it. 3D printing has no such luxury of waiting several weeks for hardening. With no supporting formwork, 3D printed concrete layers are not hard enough to support the weight of additional layers; it will not be able to reach a height to even be called a wall. Falling over or crushing down is inevitable. This is one of the challenges in this new field of 3D printing. Akke Suiker, professor in Applied Mechanics at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands, worked and saw the solution to this structural problem.

How did he do it?

The professor used equations to calculate how quickly printing layers can be laid down, given the material curing characteristics and wall dimensions. He also calculated for the results if only little material was used, the influence of structural irregularities, if the wall was thicker, or the curing rate a lot faster. And why was there a tendency for the wall to collapse together with its connecting support. There were as many as 20 factors to consider.

Ultimately, the professor came down with just 5 parameters in the final model. Another PhD student from the same university developed a computer model at the same time, with which he can also calculate the structural behavior during the printing process. It was somewhat similar to the professor’s approach.

The model can be used by engineers to easily determine the dimensions and printing speeds so that printed wall structures remain stable. The formulae are so elementary that they can become commonplace in the fast growing field of 3D printing. The insights provided can create essential basic knowledge for everyone who prints 3D structures, including structural designers, engineering firms, and companies that print thin-walled plastic prostheses of small dimensions.

Into The Future With or Without Walls

While we’re not yet into building walls, we provide many industries their small, crucial 3D-printed parts to enable us to still fly planes and ride cars, and sometimes save a life. If you’ve got a bright idea for 3D printing, contact 3D Composites today.