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29 March 2012 | PR 12/61

3D concrete printing promises new artistic freedom for architects

Freeform technology

An example of the limitless design possibilities using Freeform technology (Photo: Agnese Sanvito)

A revolutionary technique being developed by scientists at Loughborough University could free architects from the restraints of current construction methods.

Architects are creating stunning buildings with intricate geometric forms, but many never progress beyond the designer’s screen because their complexity makes them too costly to construct.

A team, led by Dr Richard Buswell and Professor Simon Austin from the University’s School of Civil and Building Engineering, has made dramatic progress with additive manufacturing technologies, where models created on-screen can be formed into three-dimensional components at full scale.

Conventionally, concrete is poured into temporary formwork – an efficient method of moulding if the shapes are straight, simple and the variations minimised.  Introduce curves and complexity, and the expense rapidly increases.

In the Freeform Construction project, a special type of concrete is deposited very precisely under computer control, layer by layer, from a 3D computer-aided-design (CAD) model.  Using this technology, very complex sections of buildings can be created without the high cost penalties associated with traditional methods.

Speaking about the project Dr Richard Buswell said: “Using Freeform every section of a building could be unique if necessary – produced by calling up a new design on-screen and setting the process to work.  Components could be created with ready-made internal voids and ducts for services, and with shapes that made the most of their insulating properties.  Because each piece would be tailor-made, there would be virtually no waste.  The possibilities are endless; it is a very exciting project.”

This pioneering work has been made possible by funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) with significant input from industry. 

The research team has now obtained technology-transfer funding from the EPSRC to commercialise the process, collaborating with Foster + Partners, Buro Happold and Hyundai Engineering & Construction.  Their expertise and advice is essential to the team’s understanding of the needs of industry, the potential of their ideas and the creation of an innovation path.

The Freeform work has generated interest worldwide and already led to exhibitions in Barcelona, New York and London.

Colin McKinnon, Innovation Director at Buro Happold, said: “Through our involvement in the project we will help the research team assess the design, manufacturing and commercial potential of this innovative technology.”

Xavier De Kestelier, Associate Partner, at architects Foster + Partners added: “This project gives us tremendous opportunities to see what construction technology will be like in the next five or 10 years.’’

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Judy Wing
Senior PR Officer
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228697
E: J.L.Wing@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

About Buro Happold
Buro Happold is an independent international practice of consulting engineers. Since 1976 we have grown in size and reach to serve public and private clients across a full range of sectors through an international network of 29 offices.

We draw on the multi-disciplinary skills, knowledge and experience of our local experts to design and deliver award winning building, infrastructure and environmental projects that excel for clients, engage with communities and enrich the lives of users.

Sustainability, innovation and holistic consulting are at the heart of everything we do and we are committed to touching the earth lightly. We think harder and are dedicated to addressing the big challenges that face the planet – climate change, population growth and scarcity of natural resources.

Current and recent projects include the Grand Museum of Egypt (Cairo), the Louvre (Abu Dhabi), the Aviva Stadium (Dublin), the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, the King Abdullah Financial District (Riyadh), the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (Stratford) and the O2 (London).
Website: www.burohappold.com
Follow us on Twitter: @burohappold

About Hyundai Engineering &Construction
Building a World of Happiness
Hyundai Engineering & Construction (Hyundai E&C) is a top-tier global company with a proud spirit of challenge and innovation. In addition to leading the history of the construction industry in Korea as a driving force behind the nation's economic development, we have become a leading player in the world construction market. Now, in our role as a core future growth engine of the Hyundai Motor Group, we are primed to build a world of happiness that everyone dreams of. Our passion and drive will help enrich the lives of everyone.

Core Business
Hyundai E&C's core business areas include highways, bridges, railroads, hydroelectric power generation and dams, power generation and desalination plants, electrical works and communications systems, chemical and industrial facilities, and public and commercial landmark buildings. Working from our spirit of challenge and our unparalleled capabilities as a primary member of the Hyundai Motor Group, we are contributing to the development of both the Korean and the global economies. By doing so, we are evolving into a trusted and respected global enterprise, enhancing synergies among our business areas and adding new values to the lives of people everywhere.

Green Business
The world’s energy industry is rapidly converting to eco-friendly, low-carbon green growth. Every country is committed to solving its environmental problems and developing alternative energy sources to ensure happier and healthier lives. Hyundai E&C is committed to facilitating these processes as a globally recognized leader in the field of environmentally friendly green growth.

New Growth Business
Nuclear energy plays a significant role as an alternative energy source in Korea, a country that is greatly lacking in petroleum resources. In addition to leading the nation's nuclear energy industry, we have won recognition for our technologies through the construction of nuclear power plants in the UAE. We are also opening up new vistas in the field of harbour construction by expanding our land development projects to include the oceans. Finally, we are the acknowledged leader in the area of skyscraper and underground space development projects.

Management Value
Hyundai E&C is a leader in the field of future-oriented management, actively contributing to enhancing the value and the greening of the construction industry through its five major green projects. We are helping to build a better future for mankind through cutting-edge research and development efforts that identify trend. In addition, we are continuing with bold investments to create an environment in which people and nature can exist in harmony.

About Foster + Partners
Foster + Partners, one of the most innovative architectural practices in the world today, led by Founder and Chairman Norman Foster, is based in London with project offices worldwide. Over the past four decades the practice has pioneered a sustainable approach to architecture and ecology through a strikingly wide range of work, from urban masterplans, public infrastructure, airports, civic and cultural buildings, offices and workplaces to private houses and product design.

The studio has established an international reputation with buildings such as the world’s largest airport terminal at Beijing, Swiss Re’s London Headquarters, Hearst Headquarters in New York, Millau Viaduct in France, the German Parliament in the Reichstag, Berlin, The Great Court at London’s British Museum, Headquarters’ for HSBC in Hong Kong and London, and Commerzbank Headquarters in Frankfurt. There is also a strong interest in city planning and infrastructure. The practice has received over 600 awards for excellence and won over 100 national and international competitions since its inception in 1967.

About Loughborough University
Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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