Rapid Prototyping with a Mobile Concrete 3D Printer

 

The latest developments in the world of rapid prototyping and 3D printing are leaving the world astounded every day. The newest wonder of the rapid prototyping scene hails from CyBe Construction- a company based in the Netherlands that works with construction technology. CyBe has unveiled a new model of 3D printer- the CyBe RC 3Dp which prints out in concrete. Furthermore, this concrete 3D printer happens to be mobile, being able to move on caterpillar tracks. According to the parent company of this rapid prototyping innovation CyBe, the printer’s transport system makes it suitable for use at rapid prototyping and additive manufacturing sites. This tank-like transport system helps the printer move about on caterpillar tracks.

 

In the construction industry, rapid prototyping in concrete is a fast-growing arena. Digital systems for concrete deposition has enabled engineers to construct large structures, including 3D printed buildings. The technology of rapid prototyping for construction machinery can now be found all over the world including Europe, the Middle East, and China. In these regions, rapid prototyping and 3D printing of buildings are creating quite the stir in both 3D printing and construction scenes.

 

As concrete rapid prototyping is still in its initial stage, a few notable flaws have been found with this technology at present due to the lack of development. The concrete rapid prototyping systems happen to be less accurate in general compared to metal or plastic deposition systems. This is due to the viscosity of concrete materials involved in the rapid prototyping process. These printers are also much slower than other rapid prototyping and 3D printing systems. Also involved is the expense of the systems due to the cost of the materials and technology required.

 

Even though efficiency and accuracy are major concerns, however, the bigger problem lies in the fact that concrete printers cannot be moved easily. Due to the size of the objects to be printed and their own sizes, rapid prototyping devices based on concrete as well as the 3D printed objects are very had to move from place to place. Standard FDM 3D printers can easily get away with being immobile as one can simply carry the lightweight, printed plastic parts away with them. However, when it comes to printed concrete objects, the technology becomes obsolete if the printer or the objects cannot be moved to the site. This is because buildings and other concrete structures need to be there at the construction site, not confined within rapid prototyping labs.

 

These limitations were first brought to limelight by a well known rapid prototyping construction project, along with its importance and value. Chinese construction company WinSun is widely acclaimed in the world of rapid prototyping for building many 3D printed buildings, which include several apartment complexes and a huge 3D printed villa. However, the construction of these buildings did not go as seamlessly as expected. Due to the limitations in mobility, the concrete walls that were 3D printed have to be made away from the site. After that, they were painstakingly moved to the site using trucks, which added the huge cost of transportation to the project.

 

The objective for different companies that deal with construction in rapid prototyping happens to be, therefore, to produce a concrete 3D printer which can be moved enough to be used for rapid prototyping on-site. This has been made possible by CyBe, a construction company from the Netherlands. Founded in 2013, this company first revealed their brainchild CyBe RC 3Dp- a mobile and concrete 3D printer that has been set upon caterpillar tracks. The world’s first ever mobile concrete 3D printer promises fast rapid prototyping speeds, an extensive range of 3D printing and mobility. The CyBe RC 3Dp just might be the 3D printing solution that the world has been waiting for.

 

Even though a concrete 3D printer moving around on wheels sounds great, there remain many challenges in reality. According to the company, the answer remains in a lot of things and they have tackled some of the most common issues through extensive testing of the product. CyBe claims that among other factors, the RC 3Dp can create on-site sewer pits, high walls, abutments, formworks, and floors in a shorter amount of time and much lower cost than that was possible with a traditional rapid prototyping device for construction. The other advantages include an increased quality of printing more eco-friendly structures, thanks to reduced emission of water and carbon dioxide.

 

The most striking and important part of the RC 3Dp are the caterpillar tracks resembling that of a tank, which is used for moving the printer around over uneven terrain. The concrete rapid prototyping device can be taken to the heart of the construction site and save a lot of transport cost instead of bringing in raw materials separately to an off-site area of construction before transporting the structures or the assembled slabs to the site. Hence the journey has to be made only once- bringing the raw materials directly to the construction site for rapid prototyping.

 

According to CyBe, the printer is mobile in a vertical direction as well as horizontal. It has an undercarriage which can be extended, allowing the device to adjust printing range on the z-axis. This is a useful feature in a combination of its average rapid prototyping speed of 200mm per second, the maximum speed being 600mm per second. This makes the new rapid prototyping device a rather powerful contender to all such products available in the market. The hardware package is pretty generous as well, including a mix pump system, a mobile manipulator and a control unit with an interface. The software which is used here is CHISEL and CyBe ARTISAN, along with special concrete called CyBe Mortar. These features make the RC 3Dp a great foundation for a rapid prototyping based construction project.

 

The printing range of the device is 2750mm, maximum height is 4.5 meters, has LAN connectivity and CE-marking conformity. It boasts full service and educational support as well as remote assistance. Two operators are needed in order to operate this electrically powered device.

 

The mobile concrete 3D printer by CyBe will be transported to Dubai for printing of an R&Drone-laboratory for the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) in the first quarter of 2017. CyBe has taken the responsibility for engineering, designing as well as the on-site production of some 3D printed concrete buildings.

 

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