3D printed objects

When Two 3D Printers Are Better Than One

Making Concrete Structures Faster and Stronger

From Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore, scientists there have developed a technology where two robots can work in unison to 3D-print a structure out of concrete. When two printers work concurrently, it’s called ‘swarm printing’, and this approach can lead the way to multiple mobile printers able to construct larger structures in the future.

At present, when large concrete structures are to be 3D printed the printers used are usually larger than the object to be printed. This presents problems at construction sites that have space limitations. When multiple mobile robots print in sync, it can allow other large pieces like architectural features and special facades to be printed wherever space is available for both object and printer.

The NTU project uses a specially formulated cement mix which will allow for unique concrete designs that conventional casting can’t do. Also, structures can be produced on demand and in a much shorter time. The robots 3D-printed a concrete structure measuring 1.86m x 0.46m x 0.13m in eight minutes. Two days later it harden and achieved full strength in a week before installation.

It was a challenge to print concrete structures concurrently with two mobile robots as both printers have to move into place and start printing their parts without colliding. Printing by segments is also not feasible because if two parts should meet at a joint they will not bond properly if they do not overlap during printing. Hence, using precise positioning, the robots will move into place and print the parts in alignment. To ensure consistency, the mixing and pumping of the special concrete mix have to be blended evenly and synchronized.

Conventional manufacturing and traditional construction methods can be improved with this new technology. Using multiple robot printing is interdisciplinary, enabling roboticists to interface with materials scientists to come up with printable concrete. And to make durable concrete, it is essential to also work with mechanical and civil engineering experts.

It is possible, that in the near future, conventional building can be augmented with the influx of new technologies.

Helping Conventional Building in Seattle

3D Composites in Seattle is your go-to place when thinking about new technologies. We are not into replacing traditions, but with 3D printing, we’re able to realize ideas faster and at less cost.