CAMBER - Concrete Additive Manufacturing for the Built Environment using Robotics

Lead Research Organisation: Loughborough University
Department Name: Civil and Building Engineering

Abstract

Concrete is widely used in construction due to its ability to provide structural capacity and function cost effectively and at scale. However, its role in construction does not lend itself to creativity in design. High-end clients typically demand state-of-the-art designs, presenting a challenge in a sector where every building is essentially different to the last.

The CAMBER project will seek to develop an innovative 3D concrete printing (3DCP) platform that meets these demands. 3DCP has the potential to deliver more creative designs whilst still maintaining building function cost effectively. However, there are challenges that need to be overcome in terms of materials supply to the printing nozzle, providing support material for the concrete prior to setting to produce complex geometries and overhangs, finishing after placement to provide a suitable surface and materials formulation. Work is also needed to link the 3DCP to building information modeling capabilities. Additionally a 3DCP capability needs to be mobile such that it can be readily set up and used on a construction site (or in temporary, near-site factory) in order to optimize productivity in line with recent construction process innovation.

Building on recent R&D work and IP developed within the consortium CAMBER will address these barriers and opportunities. Led by Skanska to ensure that user needs remain a focus and to provide a route to market, it brings together a strong, supply chain-orientated consortium from construction (Skanska, Tarmac, Fosters + Partners, BRE), manufacturing automation (ABB, MTC, Loughborough University) and an SME digital solutions provider (HAL). It builds on previous R&D work (and IP) by project partners (including innovation in the application of BIM to product design, as well as materials, process and finishing). It will develop a mobile additive manufacturing platform (and associated supply and processing capabilities) for the cost- effective, mainstream 3D printing of a wide range of large concrete components (including complex geometries), such as façade units, wall panels, partitions, street furniture etc. in precast concrete factories or via the mobile platform in a near/onsite flying factory. The initial focus will be on meeting the requirements for 'high-end' markets. However, successful implementation and subsequent economies of scale will mean that the approach will be cost effective in more mainstream construction markets. The platform will integrate recent digital construction sector innovations -- especially Building Information Modelling (BIM).

Planned Impact

Economic: CAMBER will deliver economic benefits to project partners, the wider construction sector and the UK economy (increased employment and tax returns). Skanska and Tarmac will benefit from productivity savings in manufacturing high value concrete elements (\>50% productivity improvements worth £70M in target sectors; Q2). F+P will benefit from market differentiation arising from access to 3DCP technology at scales appropriate to construction. ABB, HAL and MTC will benefit from a share in a new market for 3DCP solutions. ABB will benefit from sales of robot units to construction (30% market share targeted with CAMBER solutions stimulating wider interest in automation). HAL will license their 'Robotics Framework' (either 'pay- per-use' or annual subscription) enabling users to simulate, verify and optimise their processes before execution. License revenue from 3DCP is estimated at £2.4M annually within 5 years whilst technology developed will extend to other markets further increasing the impact.

Outside the consortium benefits will accrue to manufacturers/providers of robotic tooling and to service integrators building on existing supply chains for robotic and automated solutions. Construction product manufacturers will benefit from productivity savings (see above). The successful implementation of CAMBER will accelerate the wider implementation of automation in construction, leading to significant productivity savings (50-80%) across the sector as well as developing a large new market for solution providers.

Social: Benefits include improvements in working conditions as a result of increased use of factory manufacture rather than on-site work (e.g. sheltered from weather, better facilities. Previous work shows that H&S incidents could potentially be reduced by up to 80%).
The greater use of automation in construction will create new high value jobs that are more supportive of diversity and inclusion than traditional construction jobs. It will increase interest and recruitment to construction, initiate robotics studies at Universities and create knowledge- based jobs. It will facilitate uptake of novel human machine interfaces; their use in temporary and smaller manufacturing factories can facilitate the inclusion of workers with different professional/cultural backgrounds and skills as well as an ageing work force.

Environmental: Environmental benefits will arise from reductions in waste (3DCP can save 30- 60% of construction waste). The UK construction sector has over 30,000 manufacturers and produces over 35% of landfill waste).

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This was an innovate grant where we were largely part of the management team and available for consultancy.
Some of the benefits were understanding the challenges in brining disruptive technology into the construction industry and the potentially viable markets for 3DCP technology
Exploitation Route N/A innovate project.
Sectors Construction

URL https://gow.epsrc.ukri.org/NGBOViewGrant.aspx?GrantRef=EP/S031405/1
 
Description This is an Innovate grant where we are transferring the 3DCP know how into an industrial consortium. IP was originally generated from an EPSRC project funded under the Loughborough IMCRC.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Construction,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)
Impact Types Societal,Economic

 
Description Design-for-manufacture of 3D concrete printed structural composites (DfM:3DCP)
Amount £879,327 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S019618/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2019 
End 09/2022
 
Description Manufacturing integrated building components using digital hybrid Concrete Printing (HCP) technology
Amount £1,222,952 (GBP)
Funding ID EP/S031405/1 
Organisation Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2019 
End 12/2021
 
Company Name Concrenetics bvba 
Description Development and sale of 3DCP technology and manufactured components 
Year Established 2018 
Impact Rely Bench in stalled in Times Square New York
Website https://www.concrenetics.com