Home » UK trial gets underway for low-carbon concrete 3D printing

UK trial gets underway for low-carbon concrete 3D printing

by Liam Turner
A concrete slab as seen from above

A new UK partnership has advanced the possibilities of concrete printing technology in construction.

The methodology, an unprecedented development in the UK, was devised by ChangeMaker 3D and incubated in United Utilities‘ latest innovation lab.

The development could produce big environmental, time, and cost savings and contribute to the sector’s effort to become a net-zero industry by 2030.

The projected reduction in carbon emissions alone for an onsite printed wastewater distribution chamber is 25%, with a 20% reduction in total costs.

The projected savings in time and labour are even larger.

The process

Changemaker3D and United Utilities (a wastewater services company) engineers teamed up to test the concept.

The team said they needed a substantial product with enough complexity and risk to challenge traditional technologies and push forward the boundaries of onsite construction.

They chose to model a real-life wastewater distribution chamber, which was under construction at a site in Cumbria.

Over the course of 10 weeks, an accurate digital model was created for the 1.8m diameter cylindrical chamber, including interior dividing walls.

In reality, the chamber would sit partially submerged 1.4m below ground.

The next stage will be to manufacture an offsite prototype.

Natalie Wadley, director Changemaker 3D, said: “By analysing the 3D digital model with a traditional design, we were able to draw comparisons which suggest a 25% reduction in carbon, a 20% reduction in cost, construction time cut by half, and the amount of labour by 55%.

“Low carbon concrete printing also removes several steps from the construction process which in turn enhances safety.

“It reduces the need for working at height and in confined spaces.”

Lisa Mansel, chief innovation engineer at United Utilities, added: “We are really excited by this technology. The sector has big challenges on the time and cost of construction across this current AMP, but the biggest challenge for the water industry right here and now is reducing our carbon footprint.

“One of our biggest carbon impacts is construction projects, particularly where we need to use concrete solutions.

“What we now need to do is show that it works physically, testing the finished article is structurally sound, technically feasible, and passes tests on things like water permeability.

“This will help us get our construction partners comfortable with it.”

Image: Ricardo Gomez Angel/Shutterstock

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