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Toolpath Design for Additive Manufacturing of Concrete

Using additive manufacturing (AM) technologies in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector can bring many advantages, including increased labor safety and reduced use of resources, construction time and cost. This may lead to more affordable and sustainable buildings, including housing, an important outcome in the context of strong population growth and urbanization processes. However, application of AM technology in the construction-scale followed by important challenges such as improving structural strength, reducing support structure, maximizing printing speed, reducing material consumption, and maximizing printing quality, including shape accuracy.

In my Ph.D. study I will try to make 3D-printing technology, specifically 3D-printing concrete, more feasible and frequent in the building industry. Concrete is most common building material worldwide due to its availability of raw material, strength, durability, being fire resistant, and price. However using concrete as constructional material results in many problems, such as high-energy consumption and considerably high C02 emissions during its production process. It also requires support structures during the construction phase, which produces waste in formwork, and increases construction cost and time significantly. Therefore, finding a way that can reduce the material waste, construction cost, and time can revolutionize the building sector.

Using additive manufacturing in construction is highly dependent on the toolpath used for additive manufacturing, which is a result of the shape decomposition procedure. Improvement of the 3D-printing toolpath can enable the construction of geometries that are not possible with current methods. Moreover, it can lead to improved performance of the process by reducing support structure and printing speed, while improving shape accuracy and structural behavior of the resulting construction. Right now, all of the 3D-printers follow the same basic process. They use the same decomposition algorithm for all of the geometries regardless of the requirements of each shape. In addition, there are different and, in some cases, conflicting objectives for using AM techniques such as improving strength, reducing support, maximizing speed and for each of these design objectives there may be a specific way of shape decomposition and toolpath generation. The main intention of this study is to develop a method for decomposing geometries and generating the corresponding toolpath paths for 3D-printing concrete, considering the specification of each geometry and different design objectives.

Project type: 
Dissertation / Thesis
Project duration: 
August, 2016 to December, 2020
Team: 
PhD candidate: Negar Ashrafi
Dissertation committee: José Duarte (adviser), Shadi Nazarian, Ali Memari, Alexandra Radlinska, Sven Bilen, Nicholas A. Meisel