Using 3D printing, engineering consultant Arup has produced a structural node that is just as strong as its conventional counterpart, but weighs 75% less and is only half as high.
The company said today that advances in design made possible by 3D printing are "pushing the boundaries" and could reduce the overall weight of structures by 40%.
It says the results of its work reveal for the first time the future potential of 3D printing for the construction and manufacturing sectors.
The three structural elements pictured are all designed to carry the same structural loads and forces.
But the smallest item (far right), designed using the very latest optimisation and manufacturing methods, is only around half as high as the one designed for traditional production methods, and it weighs 75% less.
Team Leader at Arup, Salomé Galjaard, called it an exciting development for construction and other industries.
"On a construction project that means we could be looking at an overall weight reduction of the total structure of more than 40%," Galjaard said. "But the really exciting part is that this technique can potentially be applied to any industry that uses complex, high quality, metal products."
Arup said that 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, allows manufacturers to create complex, individually designed pieces and print them in metal.
"We have been working on this for some time now and we’re really excited about how fast we’re progressing," said Galjaard. "We’re really pushing the boundaries here."