Researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have studied 3D-printed forms for concrete and found that they offer economic and environmental advantages over traditional wooden forms. The analysis sheds light on how 3D printing can be efficiently used in construction to produce complex forms faster and effectively recycle materials.
Precast concrete, which is widely used in the construction industry, is made by casting it into reusable molds. These molds are traditionally made of wood and require specialized craftsmanship. The use of 3D-printed molds made of fiber-reinforced polymer composites is a promising alternative.
“We developed a techno-economic model that compared costs associated with each method, evaluating materials, equipment, energy and labor,” ORNL’s Kristina Armstrong said. “3D printing can make complex molds faster, and the composites can be recycled, leading to more economical molds when used many times for precast concrete parts.”
Optimizing mold designs not only leads to cost savings, but also reduces energy requirements and carbon dioxide emissions. Future studies will further investigate the recycling effect, which could further emphasize the environmental friendliness of this method.
ORNL’s research shows that using 3D-printed forms for precast concrete can be an economically and environmentally sound choice. This advance could steer the construction industry toward sustainability and efficiency and challenge traditional manufacturing methods. It remains exciting to see how this technology will develop in the future and what positive impact it will have on the construction industry.