Between sidewalks, roads, and buildings, people are constantly surrounded by concrete structures. This versatile building material has been in use for thousands of years, and over that time it has seen great advancements in composition and construction.
According to the Global Construction Review, the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU-e) unveiled a “king size” 3D concrete printer that has the capability to create objects up to 11 meters long, five meters wide, and four meters high, as well as structures as small as a pea.
The printer’s scale will allow it to produce entire walls with extra features, such as different qualities and colors, that are even hard to produce with conventional framework.
The prototype was built by the Dutch Company Rohaco, with funding by the university and 10 other interested companies, amounting up to $720,000. The university and partnering companies will work with the Dutch building industry to develop pioneering and easily recyclable concrete products.
While this 3D concrete printer is aimed at producing structures from the most widely used material around the globe while saving on time and operation costs, other institutions are working on methods that would lower maintenance costs even after construction.
Tech Times reported on researchers from Cardiff University beginning the first major trials for a formula for self-healing concrete systems by testing three different concrete healing technologies. Researchers used six walls, each containing different forms of self-repairing technologies.
Just in the UK, an estimated $18.3 billion was spent on road repairs in 2014. Therefore, the technology being tested could save tax payers billions for these costly public works projects.
“These self-healing materials and intelligent structures will significantly enhance durability, improve safety and reduce the extremely high maintenance costs that are spent each year,” said Professor Bob Lark, one of the lead scientists in the project.
Materials for Life (M4L) is planning to develop a single system by combining three separate self-healing technologies to initiate repairs as soon as it senses damage.
The first technique involves shape-memory polymers, which are shape-shifting materials that can repair large cracks. The second method uses a mix of organic and inorganic materials that are pumped into a network of thin tunnels throughout the structure, while the final technique involves tiny capsules with healing agents and specified forms of bacteria which will produce calcium carbonate to mend the cracks.
Given that concrete is the most common building material used throughout the world, technologies such as these could end up saving substantial amounts of money on construction and repair costs in all countries.