Singapore bolsters construction 3D printing through new AM.NUS program
The National University of Singapore (NUS) has launched a new program focused on construction AM through its Centre for Additive Manufacturing (AM.NUS). The program, spearheaded by the School of Design and Environment at NUS and supported by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC), will aim to advance and accelerate the adoption of 3D printing in the construction industry.
In more precise terms, the new AM.NUS Construction 3D Printing Programme will be working on developing sustainable materials for additive manufacturing construction as well as 3D printing designs for structures that can be rapidly produced on a mass scale. The ultimate goal of the initiative will be to realize the potential of additive manufacturing in construction. The technology, increasingly being explored for building applications, can offer greater flexibility and sustainability for constructing homes, sanitation facilities and urban centers.
The new AM.NUS program was launched at the International Conference on Construction 3D Printing which was hosted at NUS from July 5th to 6th. There, the School of Design and Environment also signed an MoU with a local construction firm, Yosen Advanced Digital Construction and Manufacturing Pte Ltd, to pursue additive manufacturing and construction.
Supported by NAMIC, a Singapore-based organization dedicated to promoting innovation through additive manufacturing, the construction program plans to establish an ecosystem for construction 3D printing. To achieve this, it will be collaborating with researchers and construction industry leaders in Singapore as well as providing construction AM training to NUS students and industry partners. The program will also host conferences and workshops to bolster awareness and knowledge of how additive manufacturing can impact construction.
To enable the program’s own research projects, NUS has established a construction 3D printing laboratory which will reportedly house Singapore’s largest gantry type concrete 3D printer. Researchers will leverage the technology to develop and test innovative building designs and new construction materials. As stated, the overall goal is to develop concrete materials and structures that are suitable for mass production without compromising sustainability.
The AM.NUS construction program has already started work on two projects in the field. The first is to develop 3D printed toilets which could help to improve sanitation in India and the second is to build the world’s first 3D printed volumetric formwork.
The sanitation project is being undertaken in partnership with NAMIC and Hamilton Labs, a company specializing in 3D printing construction. The goal of this particular project is to find a means to rapidly and sustainably produce toilets to be deployed in India to improve the country’s sanitation problems.
So far, the researchers have come up with a toilet design that can be 3D printed in under five hours and is 25% cheaper than non 3D printed toilets. The toilet design is specially designed for ease of transportation: it is printed in twelve separate parts which can be easily shipped and assembled on site. A unit of the 3D printed toilet will be sent to India for use, though the researchers will continue their work by trying to incorporate recycled materials into the concrete mixture.
The second project, building the world’s first 3D printed volumetric formwork, will also be for sanitation purposes, as they are being designed for bathroom units. Typically made from steel or wood, formworks provide internal support in concrete structures which is vital for building integrity. The goal with the 3D printed polylmer formworks is to complete up to 24 bathroom units in a day (presently, it takes a day to build a HDB bathroom unit).