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Thu November 26 2020

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Steel fabricator demonstrates viability of 'printing' connections

13 Nov 18 A London-based structural steel fabricator is working with Cranfield University to use additive manufacturing techniques – 3D printing – to create steel connections.

3D printing steel beam connections
3D printing steel beam connections

Steelo Ltd was set up in Middlesex by Polish aeronautical engineer Michael Krajewski in 2009 as Struxteel Steelwork Management, before becoming Polsteel in 2011 and then Steelo at the end of 2017. It has a 12,000 sq ft semi-automated fabrication plant near Heathrow.

“Full automation is our long-term objective, and thanks to our recent 3D printing project we are certain that it’s achievable,” said founder CEO Michael Krajewski.

The company started a research project with Cranfield University In April 2018 to determine the possibility of printing structural steel beams. “At first, we wanted to 3D print the whole steel beam,” explained Lina Alexaki, project leader at Steelo. “However, we quickly discovered that our focus should be on 3D printing steel beam connections, using pre-cut beams.”  

Steelo has founded a Master’s Degree thesis project and provided structural steel connection details and material for research purposes.

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The company claims that its research has already established that 3D printing of structural steel connections is not only possible but could also save time and money for the industry.

Steel connections are currently hand welded. “With fewer and fewer people willing to undertake hard, physical work such as welding, it is increasingly difficult to find skilled and trained professionals,” Michael Krajewski said. “We want to enable the industry to evolve from hand welding and   believe that welders can evolve into 3D printer supervisors.”

“Following the success of printing sample connections, we now want to focus on making the 3D printing process more cost and time efficient,” Lina Alexaki added. The next stage focuses on optimising the surface and geometry of the connection, she said.

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