Skanska has signed a collaboration agreement with Loughborough University to develop the use of its 3D printing technology in construction.
The university has granted Skanska a licence to use the concrete printing technology that it has developed, taking it from the laboratory to construction site.
Skanska is also collaborating with Foster + Partners, Buchan Concrete, ABB and Lafarge Tarmac as it aims to develop a 3D printing supply chain.
A team from Loughborough’s School of Civil & Building Engineering, led by Richard Buswell and Simon Austin, have worked on the development of 3D printing technology for the construction industry since 2007. The project was started under the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Innovative Manufacturing & Construction Research Centre (IMCRC). The team has developed 3D concrete printers fitted to a gantry and a robotic arm, which is now in its second-generation form.
The printer deposits a high–performance concrete precisely under computer control. It works by laying down successive layers of concrete until the entire object is created. The printer can make things which cannot be manufactured by conventional processes such as complex structural components, curved cladding panels and architectural features.
The aim of the initial 18-month development programme is to develop the world’s first commercial concrete printing robot.
Rob Francis, Skanska’s director of innovation and business improvement said: “3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours. We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency which has never been seen before in construction.”
Dr Richard Buswell from Loughborough University’s Building Energy Research Group said: “The modern construction industry is becoming more and more demanding in terms of design and construction. We have reached a point where new developments in construction manufacturing are required to meet the new challenges and our research has sought to respond to that challenge.
“We are pleased and excited by the opportunity to develop the world's first commercial 3D concrete printing robot with Skanska and their consortium. We have been convinced of its viability in the lab, but it now needs the industry to adapt the technology to service real applications in construction and architecture."