At the BAUTEC conference in Berlin, Italcementi presented a new concrete mixture developed specifically for construction 3D printing applications. The new mixture is developed to be fast setting, in order to enable deposition of more complex geometries, and also more sustainable, in line with the company’s targets for more sustainable construction processes.
Italcementi, part of the HeidelbergCement Group, began studying 3D printing technology in 2015 in the company’s laboratories in Bergamo, i.lab. In particular, Italcementi conducted research activities in this field developing cementitious material that could be adaptable to different 3D printing technologies, in order to provide an innovative solution for constructions. The company looks to 3D printing in its quest for sustainability, aiming to create a new “building” culture, a new design and implementation system based on digital technologies and involving architecture and design firms, construction companies, research centers, universities.
Italcementi started to study the 3D printing technologies focusing on the materials’ properties of cement and concrete. The know-how acquired and the technical skills developed by the research team during the laboratory phase have been supported through investments in laboratory machines and partnerships. The team has grown to include engineers, materials chemists, architects and laboratory technicians/researchers, to a total of about 15 people, with over 15,000 hours of research in 2018.
Italcementi’s partners are part of a network that includes universities, architectural and engineering firms. Among these, are the Harvard College Graduate School of Design, the University of Naples “Federico II” (Department of Chemical Engineering, Materials and Industrial Production and Department of Structures for Engineering and Architecture), the University of Florence (Consortium for the Development of Large Interphase Systems) and construction 3D printing startups like COBOD International.
The development of new formulations that can be processed by different extrusion 3D printing systems and the study of solutions in which 3D printing can be used for structural applications are key elements of Italcementi’s ongoing research. With regard to this last aspect, the collaboration with MATERIAS and the Department of Structures for Engineering and Architecture of University of Naples “Federico II”, and with its spin-off company Etesias s.r.l., is considered strategic for the development of new structural design concepts, as well as for contribution to the appropriate definition of standards and regulations.
This collaboration intends to bring innovation to the area of “personalization” of structural objects and, consequently, to the entire design process of the same. Moreover, downstream of the printing process, it is possible to realize real structural elements in reinforced concrete (i.e. characterized by the presence of metal reinforcement) through an assembly technique with the aid of steel devices that make the structure monolithic.
Ultimately, this is a very peculiar and unique process of realization (design-to-product). The control of the entire design-to-product supply chain enables the inclusion of intelligent devices in the production phase, for example, for structural monitoring or information exchange in an infrastructure network. Through this approach, the use of 3D printing leads to a new culture of sustainable “building”, a system of design and construction based on digital technologies.