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Architectural 3D Priting|The World’s First 3D-Printed Two-Storey Building Completed in Guangdong, China

Recently, a 7.2-meter-high double-storey office building was completed in the Guangdong Construction Base of the China Construction Second Bureau. The work attracted amazing attention all over the world for the main structure of the building was “printed” on the spot by a building 3D printer, which means 3D printing technology has made great breakthroughs in the construction field.

"The basic principle of 3D printing architecture is the same as that of a general printer. There must be a printer body, a nozzle, ink, and paper." Huo Liang, assistant director of the Materials Engineering Research Institute of China Building Technology Center, said. If the metal frame built around the building is regarded as the body of the printer, the print head of the concrete is equivalent to the nozzle of a general printer, but the "ink" that it sprays is not ordinary concrete, but needs to be specially formulated.

With construction 3D printer, print heads and printed
materials, "paper" is certainly essential. “Before construction, we buried the steel cage in the ground, which is equivalent to 'paper'.” Huang Yun, deputy manager of the Science and Technology Department of Guangdong Construction Base Co., Ltd., said: “In the printing process, along with the wall As the body continues to grow taller, it is necessary to add steel bars according to the drawings."

3D printing technology is mainly used in the main building construction process. The traditional technology involves three aspects of formwork, steel, and concrete in the main construction. All the processes of 3D printing technology are also carried out around these three contents. At present, 3D printing cannot print steel bars, and the steel bar layout needs to rely on labor. However, the formwork required for concrete pouring is not present at the construction site of a 3D printed building because the concrete sprayed from the 3D print head is not uniform.

The process of 3D printing construction spitting concrete is the same as that of the traditional construction pouring concrete, and it must be completed at one time without interruption. The print head continuously ejects a printing material having a width of 5cm and a thickness of 2.5cm through a circle and a circle, and builds the wall through layer by layer. If the underlying concrete mortar condenses slowly and does not form sufficient hardness, it cannot support the weight of the upper layer material, causing the wall surface to deform or even collapse. If the condensation is too fast, there will be adhesion problems with the upper layer material. “We added the admixture to the general concrete mortar through trial and error. By adjusting the viscosity and setting time of the material, we finally developed the concrete needed for 3D printing construction, and its strength can reach C40-C60, which fully meets the strength requirements." Huo Liang said.

From the characteristics of traditional craftsmanship, for the construction of the curved surface design, whether it is on-site casting or factory prefabricated components, the mold engineering is costly and unsuitable. “Architectural 3D printing technology is based on computer intelligent control to realize the construction process of building components and building-free formwork. It has obvious advantages in curved building and dome construction, and at the same time provides the possibility for designers to create freely.” China Building Technology Center Materials Director Zhang Tao said. 3D printing technology will undoubtedly promote the digital development of manufacturing. In the world of 3D printing, architects, engineers and construction workers will use technology to combine architecture with 3D printing to complete the reconstruction of existing building technology.

Architectural 3D printing technology can also save construction materials and reduce construction costs, and take full advantage of print intelligent control, allowing the building to be formed at one time, saving 60% of material while reducing process losses and energy consumption during construction. “Our project has a construction area of about 230 square meters, and is divided into upper and lower floors. The printed parts are the wall and structural columns, which only takes 3 days.” Huo Liang said, “Architectural 3D printing technology enables the house to be completed by mechanical automation. In the past, it requires twelve or three workers to finish less than half of the projects."

This two-storey building is the "world's first in-situ 3D printed double-storey demonstration building", which will be used for office and display after completion. Its construction technology utilized with Architectural 3D printing has three breakthroughs compared with the past 3D printing technology: one is in-situ printing, which means the main body is printed directly on the spot, without the need for secondary assembly. Second, the contour process, which means the body of the printed wall is hollow, convenient for adding warm filling materials. Third, it makes the process more difficult as it is the first practical application of this technology on double-layer buildings. Although the 3D printing technology currently has not been applied in construction on a large scale, the successful application of in-situ 3D printing technology has undoubtedly laid the foundation for the promotion of 3D printing technology in the field of architecture. It is complementary and interdependent with existing construction technology. R&D and application of this technology is not a substitute for current construction technology, but a strong complement to current construction technology.

This "the world's first in-situ 3D printed two-storey demonstration building" is a demonstration project jointly developed by China Construction Technology Center and China Construction Second Bureau Huanan Company, "Building 3D Printing Technology Research and Application Demonstration". At the beginning of the project, the research on architectural 3D printing has just started. The research and development of architectural 3D printing from construction materials and construction equipment are few. Besides, the architectural 3D printing technology is multi-professional, cross-domain integrated technology, covering materials, machinery, automation, computer control, etc., which needs to have a multi-disciplinary, interdisciplinary knowledge background.

After 3 years of technical research, we have completed the development of various 3D printing material systems, frame structures, conveying systems, and control software, achieving breakthroughs from scratch, from small to large, and obtaining 3D printed materials and equipment. They have gained 13 patents, 4 software copyrights, 1 professional work, and 1 appearance patent. Huo Liang said: "At present, the domestic and international architectural 3D printing technology is developing at the same time. The Chinese construction industry has even surpassed its foreign counterparts in certain applications."

Under the guidance of national policies, Chinese architecture has made great efforts to explore 3D printing technology and lead domestic research in the academic field. The "Concrete 3D Printing Technical Regulations" edited by China Construction Technology Center has been drafted and is currently in the stage of soliciting opinions; the relevant research results of 3D printing of the technical center have been carried out at the 27th Australian Concrete Conference and the 69th RILEM Technology Exchange Conference. Technical exchanges, thematic reports were delivered at the 31st International Conference on Solid Waste Technology and Management and the 15th International Conference on Cement Chemistry, which received high attention and high praise from foreign experts.