From research to practice

The future of 3D printing and its applications in the precast concrete industry

In this article, worldwide, ground-breaking projects and scientific studies are presented to showcase the potential of digital fabrication with concrete. On a trial-and-error basis, the frontiers of this innovative technology are rapidly being explored, such as the 3D printing of concrete. A large-scale 3D concrete printer has already been developed and the actual process of printing has become more and more controlled over time, including the impact of different ambient conditions. The results obtained have been encouraging to proceed with structural applications by reinforcing and prestressing printed structures. Residential buildings as well as bridges are being realised in real projects as well as in living labs, thus demonstrating a vast range of freedom in architecture together with an increasing productivity and more sustainable designs. The experience gained so far indicates that the precast industry will be one of the early users of this technology. However, in the longer run, developments might even disrupt this industry and do away with the difference between in-situ production and precast by bringing high-tech precast technology closer to the construction site.