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Precast’s Future: Now Playing In 3D

We’ve all heard about 3D printing and how it’s transforming various aspects of the building and architecture community. But what are the implications for precast concrete?

The most obvious benefit of 3D tech is that it operates without a physical form. We can create the product we want without using traditional materials, which gives us a kind of freedom in creation and production previously unknown.

Binder jetting allows us to create the parts we want using a combination of aggregates and cement, building layer by layer and refining each until we get the exact shape desired. Because the paste that holds each layer together takes some time to solidify, we’re afforded the time to get it just right.

Printing wet concrete into a free standing form is also possible, though tricky. Though this method also proceeds by layers, it’s difficult to ensure that the concrete is both malleable enough to print and sturdy enough to stand on its own. Where 3D printing has been most promising for precast is in the area of creating forms for large projects. Using the tech, we can build forms that last well beyond the typical lifetime of a regular form, holding up to massive jobs where there are many concrete pours.

Possibly the biggest boon to precast is what it enables designers and architects to do. The models and schematics they create allow us to get that much more precise in what we can produce for them, seeing the overall structure in real life before we, well, see it in real life.