IN: Inspiration

3D printing takes shape

A support structure for a preschool in France is the latest structure to be built using 3D printing.


Large-scale 3D printing is a rapidly growing industry with more and more companies set to enter this increasingly competitive and niche market. One company that has been pioneering the field since 2015 is XtreeE, which specializes in developing advanced large-scale 3D printing technology for the architectural design, engineering and construction sector. In its most recent project completed in January this year, the France-based company built an organic truss-style support structure for a preschool playground in Aix-en-Provence in France.

The architects at Marc Dalibard originally designed the building, and XtreeE took over the final design and production of the concrete column. The building is four metres in height and blends seamlessly with the concrete of the preschool building.

To create the structure, XtreeE programmed an industrial robot arm to extrude a special mixture of concrete to form the ‘envelope’, or outer layer, of the organic structure. The hollow envelope was then filled with concrete and filed to remove the appearance of each printed layer, creating a smooth surface that calls to mind the twisted roots of a tree. 

The structure was printed in segments at the XtreeE studio and then assembled on-site. The printing process alone took over 15 hours, however, once the print programme is written, it could in theory be used to produce a large number of identical concrete supports with less human labour than traditional methods.

Bringing the digital revolution to the construction industry, 3D printing allows complex geometric structures to be created at a reasonable cost and with shorter production times compared to traditional techniques. In 2015 XtreeE built its first large-scale prototype.

The company has since partnered with LafargeHolcim, which holds the world’s largest research and development centre within the construction materials sector. LafargeHolcim aims to impact three potential markets, namely, high value-added architecture, the individual construction of affordable homes, and the robotic construction of prefabricated building elements.

Image source: XtreeE



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