3D Printing Concrete Casting Moulds for Construction

Concrete Casting: Geiger Group with NOWLab

The process of building restoration frequently throws up complex challenges.

Geiger Group found themselves in this kind of situation as they focused on the renovation of a listed building in Kempten in southern Germany. Founded in 1923, Geiger has expertise in property development, civil engineering, construction and more.

This restoration, the conversion of a historic brewery into events and office space, was one of many architecture projects the group performs annually. The challenge at hand was to replace five huge stone window frames on the property while upholding the outstanding aesthetic of the original.

There were two standard choices that Geiger could have considered when replacing these stonework window frames.

The conventional technique would be stone masonry. This is an activity that is highly skilled and creates impressive results but it is expensive and time-intensive. The next option would be to use resin-coated foam formwork to cast concrete.

The pattern depth meant that milling an individual piece of foam to the required shape was impossible, and production employing multiple pieces would have extended the duration and increased costs. A more general limitation of this technique is the waste and toxicity involved.

If you want to produce concrete in complex geometries on site right now it’s very expensive. It’s mainly handwork, people are making individual wooden formworks, they will be used for one thing and then they will go to the trash.

Jörg Petri, Director of Innovation, [email protected]

Geiger contacted [email protected] to explore a third option because the project was on a tight schedule.

NOWlab is the research and innovation hub within BigRep that constantly looks for novel ways to shape and scale additive manufacturing for customized industrial use cases.

NOWlab's expert teamwork to produce tailored industrial application solutions employing innovative, patent-owned production processes and methods. As an industry leader in the research sphere, NOWlab is directing BigRep’s journey to find the future of industrial products and manufacturing.

The Process

After speaking about possibilities, NOWlab and Geiger agreed to work together on the windows. They were created utilizing the following method. Geiger gave NOWlab CAD files comprising of the full specifications of the window frames.

NOWlab used these files to produce a digital pattern for a cast formwork. Having made G-code files from SIMPLIFY3D 3D printer software, they then printed the formwork on a BigRep ONE, using its helpful 1 m print volume to do this in a single print.

Made from BigRep’s biodegradable PLA 3D printer filament material, the printed formwork was then delivered to a fabricator to cast concrete portions. The assembly of the window frames from different sections was carried out on the construction site before an effective installation.

In this case, the client delivered the CAD files, but in other scenarios NOWlab can produce these, either by making a rendering from scratch or creating a 3D scan of a template piece.

In the end you use less concrete because the structure is enabled through a more complex geometry. With the print cast we see a clear possibility for architects to exercise direct control over what they design on their computer and what is produced on site.

Jörg Petri, Director of Innovation, [email protected]

Geiger believes that the window frame parts created by NOWlab’s 3D printing method cost half of what they would have if sourced from a stonemason, with a production time of less than 45% compared to the option of resin-foam cast production.

Geiger was also able to extensively decrease the colleague resources required for the project. In combination with a high-quality finish, this was the ideal 3D-printed solution for Geiger.

You can rely on 3D Printing Technology in order to create a one to one copy of your design at full-scale. Then you’re able to implement this in the real world.

Jörg Petri, Director of Innovation, [email protected]

Products for the Future

As time goes on, it is likely that Geiger and its peers will continue to utilize these techniques in their renovations. Restoration is only one of the applications where the basic technique can be used.

NOWlab is advancing 3D-print based concrete casting methods for the architectural construction requirements of the future, for the manufacture of architectural facades and structural or load-bearing elements.

With the initiation of test-case projects, NOWlab has a patent pending for the manufacture of 3D-printed formwork for this technology.

The benefits provided by 3D printing such as quicker production, decreased cost, and better environmental soundness are similarly found in these applications. With new products, the adaptability of 3D printing additionally releases huge design potential.

New structural features, surface textures, and exterior forms can be expected when designs are freed from previous limitations.

In this respect, 3D-print-based concrete casting provides a glimpse into a different future for construction and architecture. This vision applies to both restoration projects such as Geiger’s, and cutting-edge architectural designs. The BigRep ONE is realizing that vision to make it a reality quickly.

We aim to achieve architectural façade elements and perhaps even load bearing walls within a year.

Jörg Petri, Director of Innovation, [email protected]

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by BigRep.

For more information on this source, please visit BigRep.

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