Twente AM unveils large-scale concrete 3D printer in Dubai

Twente AM, a Dutch start-up focused on architectural 3D printing, has unveiled its latest large-scale concrete 3D printer. The machine was developed and assembled at the company’s research and development center in Nelson, Canada days before being showcased on screens at the 40th annual Big 5 International Building & Construction Show in Dubai.

Ian Comishin, President and Cofounder of Twente AM, states: “The main role of this huge printer will be to create leave-in-place formwork for the construction of concrete homes to be built in British Columbia.”

The 9-axis architectural 3D printer

Twente’s goal in its debut year was to develop a concrete 3D printer placed on a gantry-like structure capable of traveling 10 meters wide and 5 meters high. A typical 6-axis ABB robot fixed in place has a printing footprint of 42m³. With the addition of elevation and translation, an 8-axis robot is capable of printing 181m³. Finally, a 9th rotational axis brings the machine’s printing footprint to 391m³.

The extensive reach of the concrete printer coupled with its advanced articulation enables elaborate shapes and artistic structures that would otherwise be impossible with conventional formwork. Parametric CAD/CAM software is directly linked to the machine, with the shapes being guided by algorithms.

Twente demonstrating the capabilities of its 9-axis concrete 3D printer. Photo via Twente AM.
Twente demonstrating the capabilities of its 9-axis concrete 3D printer. Photo via Twente AM.

The 40th annual Big 5 Show

The latest Big 5 Construction Show in Dubai took place in late November of 2019. Twente took the opportunity to showcase their huge machine with a series of risky live prints displayed on screens in their booth.

The company fabricated a few classic Arabic geometric designs with gradually increasing star sizes, a feat only made possible by the design freedom enabled by additive manufacturing. The team also managed to 3D print a 3m tall continuous wet structure in a single session, which they are claiming is a world record. Furthermore, a very impressive 52.5cm of unsupported overhang structure was achieved by the large-scale concrete printer. The team topped it all off with a live printed Arabic beach cabana, with arches as high as 2.6m. This garnered the attention of much of the Middle Eastern crowd at the Dubai trade show.

Twente's 3D printed structures showcased on screens in Dubai. Photo via Twente AM.
Twente’s 3D printed structures showcased on screens in Dubai. Photo via Twente AM.

“We couldn’t be where we are now without collaborating with other talented members of the industry,” explains Tim Brodesser, head of R&D. “We didn’t make this ourselves, this technology is at the very early adoption stage and working with the other companies and academic institutions throughout the Netherlands, Denmark, Austria, The UK and Canada who are taking on the challenge of solving 3D printing for home building is what Twente’s foundation is built upon.”

Large-scale additive manufacturing for construction is very much in its infancy. Companies around the world are beginning to demonstrate the capabilities of the manufacturing method to the construction industry in the hopes of boosting progress. More recently, in February, Danish 3D printing construction company COBOD provided a live demonstration of its technology by 3D printing the walls of 4 small houses at the international Bautec construction exhibition in Berlin.

Elsewhere, MX3D and Takenaka have reimagined the internal construction of standard building structures by 3D printing structural steel connectors. This comes after MX3D successfully 3D printed a 12m long steel bridge in Amsterdam.

The nominations for the 2020 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows Twente’s 3D printed structures showcased on screens in Dubai. Photo via Twente AM.