UK First: HS2 to Undertake 3D Concrete Printing on Site

In a UK first, on-site 3D reinforced concrete printing will be deployed by HS2 Ltd’s London tunnels contractor Skanska Costain STRABAG Joint Venture (SCS JV).

3D concrete printing
3D concrete printing

The cutting-edge technology, called Printfrastructure, uses computer-operated robots to print concrete with a strengthening internal lattice structure.

Microscopic strands of graphene only several atoms thick run through the concrete like stripes in a stick of rock. By replacing traditional steel, it helps to drive improved site safety, greater construction flexibility, shorter build time and a smaller carbon footprint.

This solution was developed by SCS JV’s partner ChangeMaker 3D, together with advanced materials specialist Versarien.

The technology will enable SCS JV to make structures on site, rather than transport them via road as pre-cast slabs that are then assembled and lowered into place by large cranes.

As a flexible mobile technology, 3D concrete printing also enables the technique to be deployed in physically-restricted areas – avoiding the need to develop complicated and potentially expensive logistical plans.

Furthermore, where HS2 construction is happening beside a live railway, it offers an opportunity to deliver works without disrupting the travelling public or local residents by pausing services or undertaking overnight work.

The 3D concrete printing process significantly reduces the quantity of concrete required and SCS JV estimates that it could contribute to reducing its carbon output by up to 50%. By removing steel and simplifying the construction process, the carbon reduction could be even greater.

Andrew Duck, SCS JV Temporary Works Manager, said:

“Automation enabled by Printfrastructure’s 3D reinforced concrete printing creates a factory-like environmental that delivers a high-quality product that both increases efficient use of materials, and reduces our carbon footprint.

“It's important that we give technologies such as Printfrastructure the opportunity to flourish because of the possibilities it offers the industry to make a step change in how projects are delivered.”

Proof of concept trials are due to begin next spring.

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