IN: Inspiration

Robots Set to Transform 3D-Printed Concrete

Researchers in Singapore have devised a new method for 3D-printing that uses concrete.


When it comes to printing 3D structures in concrete, size can be a cause for concern. If the structure is larger than the printer for instance, then the builder must first print each part separately and then join them once they are complete. This is problematic, because when fresh and hardened concrete joins, the bond strength decreases.

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) have come up with the idea of using two robots as a solution to this problem, as the robots can be programmed to produce the structure cooperatively.

The scientists assigned a path to each robot based on a 3D model – which measured 1.86m x 0.46m x 0.13m. The path had been sliceddigitally before printing and the use of scanners, sensors and a stereo camera helped each robot print its relevant section. 

PPC Imaginarium
(3rd from left) NTU Asst Prof Pham Quang Cuong with his multidisciplinary team of researchers consisting of roboticists, civil engineers, mechanical engineers and material scientists, with the 3D concrete structure printed by the two robots concurrently in a single print.


“We envisioned a team of robots which could be transported to a work site and print large pieces of concrete structures and then move on to the next project once the parts had been printed,” explains Pham Quang Cuong, Assistant Professor at NTU Singapore.

Each robot was assigned its own path to avoid collisions during the printing process. In the end, the robots were able to complete their task in just eight minutes – half the time taken for sequential 3D-printing. This new method has the potential to greatly benefit the construction industry, and the researchers hope to enhance the robots so that printing can take place on rough terrain, too.

“Such an innovation demonstrates to the industry what is feasible and proves what is possible in the future if we are creative in developing new technologies to augment conventional building and construction methods,” says Professor Chua Chee Kai, Executive Director of the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing.

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