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3Dealise, ExOne and Bruil introduce new technology for freeform 3D-printed architectural concrete
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By Simon | 3ders.org

When it comes to additive manufacturing, it seems like every week reveals a new desktop 3D printer or a new material offering that brings the capability of creating physical objects on your desktop or office environment real. One segment of the additive manufacturing space however, has been moving relatively slowly; the ability to 3D print large-scale structures.

Although we’ve seen everything from smaller scale endeavors focused on creating small rooms or even larger structures that, while impressive, lack any sort of desirable aesthetic, few technologies have emerged as game-changers for architects and engineers who are interested in creating 3D printed structures worthy of mass attention.

3Dealise, an industrial 3D printing and 3D engineering company and Bruil, a Netherlands-based construction company, have partnered to develop a way for fabricating large-scale concrete structures that brings to architects and engineers what they are calling ‘freedom of design’ or "freeform design".

One example of how they are using their technology is in forms like the one below, which is a 1.6 m twisted H-profile that was presented at the GEVEL 2015 trade show last week:

To create the large-scale structures, 3Dealise and Bruil use 3Dealise’s large ExOne S-Max 3D printer to produce molds for the concrete. The molds are capable of being built at roughly the size of a phone booth with a total build volume of 1800 x 1000 x 700 mm on the extremely large 3D printer, which selectively dispenses foundry-grade resin into thin layers of specially-engineered sand. If a design calls for a larger mold, the molds are capable of being designed for being stacked to create larger shapes for more complex forms. Once the molds have been assembled, Bruil pours one of their many types of concrete (including fiber-reinforced varieties) into the mold. After the concrete is set, the final concrete form is released using water jet blasts.

“This new technology is important for two reasons,” said 3Dealise CEO Roland Stapper.

“First, it enables a world of new possibilities for architects: irregularly curved surfaces, lightweight half-open mesh or honeycomb structures, elements ornamented like 17th century craftwork, etc. No longer restrained by technical limitations, the architect’s power of imagination is the new frontier.

Second, because this new technology is capable of producing large-scale fibre-reinforced concrete, it can be used for real-world applications, today. There are many stories filled with expectations about 3D printing, but you cannot create a building with expectations. You need technology that works.”

While 3Dealise has previously been focusing on all shapes and sizes of additive manufactured goods, they are hoping that the partnership with Bruil will help provide architects and engineers with more freeform capabilities that otherwise hasn’t existed before.

“With this technology, designers will have the same freedom that 3D printing has to offer and apply it to the construction industry,” said Bruil.

“Architects involved in the design process will no longer be limited to the terms and conditions of traditional deposit molds.”

Previously, efforts in cement-based 3D printed have resulted in complete structures that lack a modern generative design aesthetic due to a simple layer-by-layer construction method similar to desktop FDM 3D printers. With their 3D printed mold design approach, architects and engineers can use digital analysis tools to simulate loads and strip away material to reveal more organic forms that otherwise haven’t been able to come into fruition with traditional mold techniques. In essence, this means that rather than typical box-structures, architects who utilize the new offering will be able to create much more organic and sustainable forms just by simply stripping away unnecessary material.

Both companies are currently looking for architects who want to partner with them and explore the possibilities of their new concrete manufacturing and molding technique.

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