Design School

Research

3D concrete printing bench design project

Group: Design Practice

Project: Concrete Innovation

Exploring products created using 3D concrete printing

3 years

Confidential

Dr Mark Evans

Overview

Research project led by Loughborough Design School successfully creates innovative public bench designs using concrete 3D printing methods.

The aim of the 3 year project, led by Dr Mark Evans, was to investigate the manufacturing opportunities for concrete printing.

The 3D printing technology was originally developed to print freeform structural components for buildings, but this project shifted the focus to more mainstream product application i.e. furniture design. The project created seven product design proposals for street furniture benches. The designs have been registered with the UK intellectual property, and one of the designs has received recognition with an International Design Excellence Award from the Industrial Designers Society of America.

Dr Evans has extensive experience in using creative industrial design practice to explore the creative opportunities of emerging technologies and, as colleagues had developed 3D printing on Campus, there was an exciting opportunity to work with other schools to identify opportunities for commercialisation.

Dr Evans explains “The UK has an international reputation for devising innovative manufacturing technologies but many of these have struggled to be commercialised due to difficulties in identifying commercial applications. This project integrated the creative capabilities of industrial design with engineering to translate the manufacturing process into tangible product opportunities”.

The project titled ‘Breaking the mould: Creative Opportunities for Free-Form 3D concrete printing’ utilised the expertise and resources of four of the University’s academic schools; Loughborough Design School, The School of English, Arts & Drama, The School of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering and The School of Civil and Building Engineering, who had previously developed the 3D concrete printing system.

Designs were modelled in 3D CAD and then were subjected to topology optimisation (the removal of unnecessary material through automated computer based modelling systems) with support from the School of Mechanical & Manufacturing Engineering. The process progressed from 2D sketches to 3D sketch models, computer sketches, 3D renderings and, finally, appearance models.

All of media produced during the project was collated and used in the production of exhibition material for use at a public exhibition at the National Centre for Craft and Design. The exhibition has currently had over 5000 visitors and the project video produced received over 32000 views in its first 8 months.

During the project Dr Evans and his team discovered that designers have the capacity to provide a creative link between emerging technologies and its commercialisation by making the potential impact tangible and desirable. They also discovered that the use of topology optimisation can contribute to highly functional engineering components but this can also have an unexpected and unwanted impact on appearance.

The project has been a big success as Dr Evans explains “The project reinforced the principle that, when presented with an identical problem, the diversity of solutions generated by creative designers can be extreme. The process and outcomes of the research continue to be widely disseminated and, having registered the intellectual property for the designs, the project team are now seeking a commercial sponsor to put one or more of the benches into production.”

The project was sponsored by Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Higher Education Funding Council for England, Higher Education Innovation Funding and the National Centre for Craft & Design.

The bench designs are currently on display to the public for a 3 month exhibition until 28th February 2016 at the National Centre for Craft and Design. For more information contact Dr Mark Evans

3D Concrete Printing Bench Design Project

Action research project exploring creative opportunities for street furniture inspired by 3D concrete printing. Video summary identifies the 3D concrete printing process, design activity, model outcomes, project exhibition and conclusions.