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12 January 2006 PR 06/03

Loughborough researchers help spread the word about sci-fi construction

Being able to literally print yourself a new home or office seems like an idea plucked from a science fiction novel – but in fact the technology to create so called ‘freeform structures’ does exist.

A team of researchers at Loughborough University has launched a new project, entitled ArchiFORM, which is aimed at promoting the capabilities of freeform construction.

Freeform building techniques represent a new future for construction, which may eventually allow engineers to automatically fabricate entire buildings directly on site. Machines currently being developed around the world will literally print materials directly onto the construction area, building each layer to produce the finished structure.

The amazing advance this technology will bring to the industry is that no matter how complex a structure is there is no additional cost. In standard construction curves or intricate plasterwork, for example, are more expensive as they require more skill and time to create. With this new technology structures are built up in layers by a printer which makes no distinction between a straight line or a curve, and therefore it costs no more to build highly complex designs. This also means that service channels, such as air conditioning, could be ‘printed’ into a building during its construction.

Though building freeform structures is currently expensive and not practical for people wishing to build their own homes, it is important that those involved in the design and creation of buildings get to grips with these new and exciting techniques.

ArchiFORM is a joint project between the University’s Construction Research Group, based in the Department of Civil and Building Engineering, and the Rapid Manufacturing Research Group, based in the Wolfson school of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering. It will explore both laser scanning and rapid manufacturing techniques for architecture and construction.

Kemi Adeyeye, a member of the ArchiFORM research team, said: “Central to the project is the close collaboration with architects, engineers and construction manufacturers to identify how these technologies will impact and may be exploited by the industry.

“At a basic level the project will demonstrate the capabilities and flexibilities of digital scanning of existing structures or construction components so that new parts or features may be tailored exactly to that building’s form. This may be repairing damaged and rare plaster detail in heritage buildings or optimising whole pipe and plant room layouts for existing and new building projects.”

The ArchiFORM team want to locate additional construction sectors that will benefit from these technologies and is urging anyone interested in developing these techniques to get in touch by emailing Kemi at O.Adeyeye@lboro.ac.uk or calling 01509 222891.

For further details about freeform construction research at Loughborough University visit http://www.freeformconstruction.co.uk

Ends

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Notes to editors

Loughborough has an established reputation for excellence in teaching and research, strong links with industry, and unrivalled sporting achievement. Assessments of teaching quality by the Quality Assurance Agency place it in the top flight of UK universities; the National Student Survey ranked Loughborough equal first among full-time students; and industry highlights the University in its top five for graduate recruitment. Around 40% of Loughborough’s income is for research, and 60% for teaching. The University has been awarded five Queen's Anniversary Prizes: for its collaboration with aerospace and automotive companies such as BAE Systems, Ford and Rolls Royce; for its work in developing countries; for pioneering research in optical engineering; for its world-leading role in sports research, education and development; and for its outstanding work in evaluating and helping to develop social policy-related programmes.

In 2006 Loughborough celebrates the 40th anniversary of its University Charter, awarded on 19 April 1966 in recognition of the excellence achieved by Loughborough College of Advanced Technology and its predecessor Colleges. Loughborough University of Technology was renamed Loughborough University in 1996.

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