Contractor collaborates with Loughborough University and Foster + Partners on cutting-edge 3D printing technology

3D printing concrete

Skanska has launched a 3D concrete printing venture in collaboration with Loughborough University and architecture practice Foster + Partners.

Skanska has signed an agreement to use 3D concrete printing technology, under licence, developed by engineers at Loughborough University.

The 3D concrete printers are fitted to a gantry and a robotic arm and are currently in second-generation form.

The printer deposits a high–performance concrete under computer control and works by laying down successive layers of concrete until the entire object is created.

The printer can make things which cannot be manufactured by conventional processes such as complex structural components, curved cladding panels and architectural features.

The aim of the initial 18-month development programme is to develop the world’s first commercial concrete printing robot.

Skanska is working with a number of collaborators, including Foster + Partners, robotics firm ABB and aggregates suppliers Buchan Concrete and Lafarge Tarmac.

Skanska hopes to develop a 3D printing supply chain.

Rob Francis, Skanska’s director of innovation and business improvement, said: “3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours.

“We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency which has never been seen before in construction.”

A team in the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough, led by Dr Richard Buswell and Professor Simon Austin, have worked on the development of 3D printing technology for the construction industry since 2007.