New 3D printed wall meets industry challenges

An ultra-lightweight, freeform, 3D printed concrete wall with thermal insulation has been created while requiring less concrete and rebar.

Compared to a conventional, solid concrete wall of equivalent size, this new type of 3D printed wall delivers a 72% reduction in weight while offering the same structural strength.

Known as Shell Wall, it has been created by the University of Michigan’s DART Laboratory in the US. Interestingly, it uses commonly available concrete instead of highly specialised mixes.

Its creators say this will mitigate the challenges facing the industry such as labour and material shortages, rising emissions and materials’ costs, and the demand for housing and infrastructure.

The technique allows for waste-free concrete construction and efficient use of material, according to its creators, by placing it exactly where it’s needed for structural purposes.

The 3D concrete printing method for the Shell Wall uses a computational model to optimise layout throughout robotic construction, which reduces the use of concrete while creating greater design flexibility.

Supporting its load case with material distributed in a grid of curved ribs, the concrete between the ribs in Shell Wall is domed to increase stability and minimise the amount of material.

About the author

Desi Corbett

Desi is the Editor of Concrete in Australia and at the helm of our magazine for 8 years. She was behind the Institute's weekly news bulletins from 2016-2021 and is now writing our focused news items. Desi has been an engineering news and features journalist/editor across all disciplines since 2013 - part of a 30-year career writing for a wide range of industries.