The construction industry is experiencing a remarkable transformation with the advent of 3D printing technology. With the ability to create complex structures layer by layer, 3D printing is redefining traditional construction methods. From printing techniques that mimic trees and bones to using recycled glass, this article delves into the exciting advancements of 3D printing in the construction industry.
3D Printing Technique Boosts Strength of Bimetallic Materials
Engineers at Washington State University have made a significant breakthrough in 3D printing by drawing inspiration from the intricate structures found in trees and bones.
Their pioneering technique involves using two welding machines to simultaneously print two types of steel in the same circular layer. This results in the creation of bimetallic materials that possess remarkable strength, surpassing the properties of each metal individually.
The secret lies in the pressure generated between the metals as they cool together, resulting in a superior final product. Unlike traditional methods that require stopping and changing metal wires, this new approach enables continuous printing of multiple metals in a single layer while they remain hot.
The engineers emphasize the versatility of their approach, noting that it empowers any welding operation to expand its design concepts by combining different materials. This breakthrough has the potential to reshape industries by enabling the creation of robust and customized steel parts on demand.
The novel aspect of this technique lies in the circular manner in which multiple materials are printed, setting it apart from previous methods. By allowing one material to “bear hug” the other, the resulting bond leads to enhanced strength and capabilities.
The accessibility and affordability of this method make it an attractive option for a wide range of industries. As this technology continues to evolve, the possibilities for combining multiple materials in 3D printing will only expand, providing further advantages and opportunities for innovation.
Recycled Glass Breakthrough
Researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) have achieved a significant milestone in the construction industry by developing a method to use recycled glass in 3D printing.
This breakthrough holds the potential to transform the way buildings are constructed, offering an environmentally sustainable approach. Glass, being fully recyclable without any quality reduction, presents an untapped resource with immense potential for repurposing. Additionally, the world is facing a sand shortage, making glass recycling an even more attractive solution for addressing sustainability challenges.
The NTU research team formulated a specially designed concrete mix by incorporating recycled glass, commercial cement products, water, and additives. The researchers successfully 3D printed a proof-of-concept, a 40cm tall L-shaped bench, demonstrating the viability of using glass-based concrete mixtures for weight-bearing structural products.
The printed structure exhibited excellent buildability and extrudability, meaning that the concrete maintained its form and flowed smoothly through the 3D printing nozzle during the printing process.
This achievement opens up new avenues for recycling glass waste, which is currently underused and often ends up in landfills after being incinerated. Recycling glass back into the construction industry represents a step towards a circular economy.
Singapore, in particular, faces a glass recycling challenge, with only 13% of glass waste being recycled in 2021. The NTU research has the potential to alleviate this issue by providing a greener and more sustainable solution for the building and construction industry.
The ability to replace sand with recycled glass in 3D printing concrete mixtures offers relief from the overexploitation of sand resources, which has resulted in environmental consequences such as pollution and flooding.