RENCA, a pioneer in sustainable geopolymer materials for construction 3D printing, has set a significant milestone in the construction industry by using their zero-cement geopolymer 3D printing mortar in the construction of the world’s first 3D printed geopolymer house. The sustainability of construction materials and methods is a major global concern, given the significant pollution contributed by these elements. With emerging technologies such as 3D printing, new possibilities for reducing environmental impact are arising. This technology not only offers unparalleled freedom in design but also lessens the waste produced and the materials required.
Until now, a significant contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the 3D construction sector was Portland cement, an ingredient found in all 3D printing mortars. Geopolymer materials, which contain no Portland cement, lime, or gypsum, are up to 90% more sustainable than typical cement-based alternatives. These materials, which RENCA began working with in 2015, have proven to be not only more sustainable but also more durable, capable of enduring thousands of years compared to a few decades with traditional materials. Over 300 products utilizing these materials have been developed for various uses, effectively minimizing the environmental impact of numerous industries.
Apis-Cor, another construction 3D printing company, had its initial experience with RENCA’s geopolymer 3D printing mortar in 2016. Recently, RENCA, in collaboration with Strong Print 3D and Geopolymer International, made history by completing a 3D printed house structure using their geopolymer mortar, despite challenging conditions in the western USA desert.
Unlike other materials, genuine geopolymer-based mortars and concretes offer numerous benefits for construction 3D printing. These include fast setting times for continuous printing, high strength for structural support, and chemical adhesion between layers for a monolithic structure. Additionally, they provide fire resistance, withstanding temperatures up to 1200°C/2200°F, and corrosion resistance, ideal for structures near the sea or for systems prone to rapid degradation. Importantly, geopolymers are 90% more environmentally friendly than Portland cement, emitting less CO2 during production.
Despite needing a specific approach towards mixing procedures, the success of RENCA’s geopolymer mortars signifies the dawn of a new era in construction. Current research and development efforts at RENCA are focused on creating a one-component geopolymer mortar for continuous mixers and a two-component system to control the setting time. These advancements will offer even greater flexibility and lessen the dependence on external conditions.