Three researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) have developed three-dimensional (3-D) concrete printing technology to make furniture using construction material made from local industrial waste.

Dhrutiman Dey, Dodda Srinivas, and Bhavesh Chaudhari, researchers from Sustainable Resources for Additive Manufacturing (SReAM) at the institute, have developed new cementitious mix compositions, amenable for 3-D printing.

The concrete printer, jointly developed by IIT-G and DELTASYS E FORMING, is capable of printing components up to one metre long, one metre wide and one metre tall.
Concrete 3-D printing is gaining momentum in the building and construction industries.

Recent developments in this field such as 3-D printed modular houses, pedestrian footbridges, office buildings, public schools, low-cost toilet units have the potential to initiate a paradigm change in the practice of construction.

“The IIT Guwahati Research Group used a specially-developed printable concrete containing industrial waste as binders to build 3-D printed furniture with a seating height of 0.4 m, a width of 0.4 m, and arch-shaped support that was modelled and sliced using SolidWorks and Simplify3D, respectively,” a statement issued here on Monday said.

The entire unit was printed layer by layer at an 80 mm/s speed, with each layer having a 10 mm height. After the unit was printed, it was covered by moist gunny bags for seven days to cure before being used.

“Traditionally, these structures were mould casted which requires more concrete material, labour, and formwork preparation. However, with 3-D concrete printing, optimised designs are printed with 75 per cent less concrete and without the need of mould,” the statement said.

Speaking about the research, Dr Biranchi Panda from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, IIT-G, said, “We showcased how material-efficient structures can be produced in our lab-scale 3D printer. Our goal is to design high-performance concrete mixes made from industrial waste for the printing of such complex structures.”

The research team believes that the on-demand, on-site 3-D concrete printing will have a global impact on versatile construction applications and multi-billion-dollar markets worldwide. The future jobs will be marshalled into design, automation, servicing, and maintenance of digital systems.

The team is now exploring underwater concrete printing and the possibility of printing functional reinforced concrete using low carbon material.

Developments related to process automation, advanced print head design are the ongoing projects in the PI team, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), India.

“3-D printing of concrete can be a technological solution for reducing carbon footprint in the building and construction industry. From the Indian context, the techno-economic analysis must be carried out that takes into account not only the environmental sustainability but also aspects relating to cost, quality, labour, and maintenance associated with 3-D printing,” IIT-G director Prof. T. G. Sitharam, said.

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