Zurich university uses 3D printed foam as concrete replacement

Images courtesy of Digital Building Technologies/Patrick Bedarf
A team from the Digital Building Technologies (DBT) department at ETH Zurich and renewable insulation company FenX have created a 3D-printable foam alternative to concrete.

The temporary or permanent foam is made from recycled waste, and can be printed in unique shapes that are lighter and are have better insulation properties than normal concrete.

A prototype is described by DBT as following the geometry of a 2m by 1.3m ribbed slab with point supports in each corner, with the foam following lines that mimic the principal stress pattern.

The prototype requires 24 formwork elements in 12 unique shapes.

After installation, the printed foam can be reused in similar applications or recycled.

The foam is printed using a robotic arm, then placed manually in the fibre-reinforced concrete. Following a curing period, the timber formwork is removed from the prototype and the structural building element is completed.

The foam allows for the manufacture of geometrically complex elements that were previously unfeasible and wasteful to produce with conventional methods.

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