CAMBER – Concrete Additive Manufacturing for the Built Environment using Robotics

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).