Synthomer Plc, one of the world’s foremost suppliers of aqueous polymers, is pleased to announce its involvement in a project aimed at developing the next generation of concrete manufacturing technology. The project is led by construction experts at the University of Loughborough and supported by a grant of £1.2 million from the EPSRC’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). The project team also includes Autodesk; Concrenetics; Cundall; Foster + Partners; University of Sheffield; and Urbastyle.
3D Concrete Printing (3DCP) is a digitally-driven, off-site manufacturing technology that is establishing itself worldwide as a viable manufacturing process. However, its use beyond purely aesthetic objects is currently limited by the manufacturing accuracy achievable. The work undertaken by this group will develop the next generation, Hybrid Concrete Printing (HCP), technology that uses 3DCP to create a near-net-shape (an object slightly larger than the desired object) and then uses a subtractive process (cutting, milling and drilling) to remove a small amount of material to create the net-shape - the desired object to sub-millimetre precision. HCP technology offers an alternative to traditional cast concrete, freed from the need to construct moulds and traditional constraints on form and finish.
The project team has mapped out the global impact of the project thorough a supply chain initiative they refer to as MADE: Materials, Automation, Design and End user.
Materials: New polymer products developed and marketed by Synthomer for use as components of the concrete admixture used to modify the performance and properties of the printed concrete. Such components could, for example, control the rate at which the concrete flows and the rate it dries at, building on Synthomer’s portfolio of construction materials.
Automation: The digital work flow used during printing and subsequent subtractive HCP operations will inform future developments of the Autodesk Powermill software capability. This builds on Autodesk’s success with the hybrid welding process used to create the world’s first 3D printed ship’s propeller WAAMpeller. The HCP project will also open up new opportunities for concrete design, freed from traditional constraints on form and function.
Design: The design methods will be embedded in software developed within Cundall and Foster + Partners, to enable them to design for manufacture using 3DCP and HCP. This capability places both organisations ready to deliver HCP as a solution for clients.
End user: Concrete street furniture designer and manufacturer Urba-Style, together with HCP tool and concrete manufacturer Concrenetics, provide an established route to market for the technology.