- Researchers at ETH Zurich have won the Swiss Technology Award 2016 for developing concrete form molding and reinforcement innovations using 3-D printing robotic arms to create a mesh mold to hold shape and provide structural strength, according to 3D Printing Industry.
- Dubbed Mesh Mould, the technique promises to expand the universe of customized concrete applications by eliminating the need to construct complicated and costly external formwork.
- Originally developed in the laboratory with polymers, the technique has passed a proof-of-concept test using metal filaments to form the mesh. It will see its first test application in 2017 as a structural wall in the NEST building in Dübendorf.
This is concrete, inside out. In lieu of constructed form molds and inserting rebar or other reinforcement materials, Mesh Mould uses a woven filament matrix to hold wet concrete in place while providing structural integrity once it has hardened. In conjunction with the ETH team, research at MIT has likewise focused on reverse-engineered concrete, using string as a bonding element for aggregate particles including gneiss rocks.
The two projects showcase not only the increased interest in concrete as an adaptive smart building material, but also the applied capabilities of 3-D-printing when it comes to load-bearing walls and columns — a use-case at the forefront of 3-D-printing actual structures. Mesh mould and reversible concrete also would drastically reduce the need for constructing formwork, consequently eliminating much of the cost and waste associated with formwork materials that are discarded once concrete has hardened.