Civil Engineering program offers 3D printing technology primer

Sources: Ohio University, Athens, Ohio; CP staff

The Ohio University Russ College of Engineering and Technology presents concrete methods in “3D Printed Buildings Guide: Required Materials, Tips, and Resources” as part of a Master of Science in Civil Engineering degree overview, posted here. The guide provides an overview of 3D-printed buildings; project scheduling and labor-saving advantages; challenges for adoption of the casting/fabrication method; and, construction-grade printing materials.

“3D printing technology has had a revolutionary impact on enterprises around the world. It enables businesses to quickly develop models and prototypes, expediting their ability to test and fine-tune new products. It also makes it easy and affordable to manufacture pieces and components that keep important machinery working as intended, such as medical testing and diagnostic equipment,” guide authors explain. “One of the most exciting applications of 3D printing technology is in the construction industry, where it being used to construct entire homes, office buildings, and other structures. 3D-printed buildings can span thousands of square feet and multiple stories, and they can be made with lower costs and less waste than traditionally constructed buildings. [They] represent one of the most significant construction and design trends for civil engineers.”

Authors describe the basic process flow: 3D printing employs large-scale machinery into which an engineer inputs floor plans and building designs, and operators feed concrete ink or other printable building material; a software-guided extendable arm, or nozzle, then applies the mix of building materials in thin layers; the entirety of the building or structure is then made according to the engineer’s specifications, one layer at a time. Among benefits of 3D printing methods: Materials are consumed at exact volume requirements, free of waste, as printers can precisely follow blueprint dimensions and specs. 

Among specific technologies or concepts underpinning 3D-printed concrete is fused filament fabrication, a.k.a. fused deposition modeling, which employs a continuous filament of thermoplastic material. Beyond cementitious materials, the stereolithography technique builds models, structures, and patterns layer by layer through a photochemical process that uses light to turn a liquid resin into hardened plastic.

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