When building houses from concrete, the principle is relatively simple: creating templates and then filling them with liquid concrete. In the future, this process could be carried out by a concrete 3D printer, and the world has already produced the first multi-story model houses designed by this technology. Riga Technical University has just set up its own 3D concrete printing laboratory.
"As the industry is new, it's impossible to go and buy a printer with all the ink, press “print”, and we're printing columns, buildings. All of this is on the development stage. We made 3D printers on our own in the faculty," Māris Šinka said.
Given that the concrete is applied in thinly manner by the printer, it is necessary to develop a special mixture that is neither liquid nor solid. At the same time, it must preserve all its usual concrete properties.
“At the moment, we are working on the dry mixture of 3D printing produced by an industrial partner. In the near future, the laboratory is intended to simultaneously improve this mixture and also to develop new types of mixtures to be used for 3D printing. They could be cement and other materials,” Māris Šinka said.
The development of environmentally friendly construction material, such as hemp concrete, is already being worked on at the university.
Since concrete 3D printers are still relatively new, buildings are expensive to build in this way. But it's temporary.
“The laboratory is expected to become a platform with free access in the future. Both scientists can develop their scientific projects and industry and new companies can come here to develop their ideas, and we can help them at this stage of product development,” Šinka said.
Studies performed in the 3D concrete printing laboratory could in future become the basis for the development of standards so that this technology can be used for the construction of various buildings in Latvia.