Researchers at ETH Zurich University have fabricated a lightweight concrete slab using 3D printing, which is the first time 3D-printed concrete has been used in a full scale architecture project.
The 80 square metre slab is only 20mm thick at its thinnest point and forms a concrete ceiling with decoratively ribbing. The slab is the concrete flooring for the room above it. The main ribs are load bearing, and the smaller filigree ribs provide aesthetic appeal and add to the acoustic qualities of the room.
The slab is part of the ETH Zurich DFAB project which is a digitally fabricated house that is being built with 3D printers and robots.
3D printers created a mould into which the concrete is poured. The advantage of using 3D printing rather than traditional layered concrete is that structures can be fabricated with precision and any pattern can easily be incorporated in the mould.
Another advantage of concrete slabs fabricated from 3D printed moulds is that they are half as heavy as conventional concrete slabs, yet are still strong. Their design is programmed using software that calculates load bearing and stress factors so that the concrete slabs are functional as well as aesthetically pleasing.
The DFAB project is researching how digital technology could be used in constructing the buildings of the future. Concrete flooring will still be used, but the project shows how flooring and other concrete fixtures can be fabricated with the aid of digital technology to create exciting possibilities.