Foster + Partners on board to design the world’s first concrete printing robot

Foster + Partners are working with Swedish building contractor Skanska to pioneer the technology behind 3D-printed concrete.

The robotically 3D-printed high-performance concrete will be used to build architectural structures.

Skanska said it aims to “develop the world’s first commercial concrete printing robot” within the first 18 months of a development program that is taking place in collaboration with UK’s Loughborough University.

The robot’s creation process is set to work by precisely laying down successive layers of concrete, using a gantry and a robotic arm.

The device is said to enable quicker production of concrete building elements, making it a cost-effective tool for the construction industry.

“3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours,” said Rob Francis,  director of innovation and business improvement at Skanska.

“We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency which has never been seen before in construction.”

In addition to Foster + Partners, other firms such as contractors Buchan Concrete, ABB and Lafrage Tarmac are also involved, aiming to create a 3D printing supply chain.

Currently at its second prototype, the team declares that the robotic system could be used to manufacture complex structural components, curved cladding panels as well as other architectural features that is impossible to create through a conventional process.

Skanska and Loughborough University have signed an agreement to share the licence to the technology.

“We have been convinced of its viability in the lab, but it now needs the industry to adapt the technology to service real applications in construction and architecture,” said Loughborough University researcher Richard Buswell, who has been working on the project since 2007.

“We have reached a point where new developments in construction manufacturing are required to meet the new challenges and our research has sought to respond to that challenge.”