The international workshop on “Digital Fabrication with Concrete” took place on 30 January 2020 in Berlin. It was jointly organized by the DBV (German Society for Concrete and Construction Technology) and DAfStb (German Committee for Structural Concrete). Arranged in collaboration with the RILEM Technical Committee on “Digital Fabrication with Cement Based Materials” (TC 276-DFC), it was the first TC workshop initiated and organized by industry. This does not only reflect the growing interest in this topic among industry stakeholders, but also gives an important indication that digital fabrication in the construction sector is slowly outgrowing its infancy. The event brought together the pioneers in digital fabrication with concrete from academia and industry “on stage” and more than 130 participants from 15 countries in attendance.
State of the art in digital fabrication
Moderated by Lars Meyer, the workshop focused on the state of the art in digital fabrication with cement-based materials, with an emphasis on best-known technologies for the large-scale additive manufacturing with concrete. In her introductory lecture, Ksenija Vasilic gave a short overview of the currently most advanced concrete additive manufacturing technologies (see also BFT 03/2020 pp. 46) and briefly addressed the challenges encountered by these technologies towards practical application. The program that followed was structured into three sessions.
In the first session, researchers Freek Bos, Dirk Lowke, and Norman Hack provided comprehensive insights into the extrusion, particle-bed, and shotcrete-based 3D printing technologies. Their presentations showed that research in this field is progressing exponentially and some high-tech printing solutions are already being developed worldwide.
Challenges and open technical questions
However, there are still challenges and open technical questions, as well as a high research need towards practical applications. These challenges were in the focus of the second session, where international research experts Nicolas Roussel, Viktor Mechtcherine, and Richard Buswell addressed the rheological requirements of printable concretes, integration of reinforcement into printed structures, and challenges foreseen when moving from ideas to reality.
Case studies and the practitioners’ point of view
In the third session, industry speakers Raphael Zöller, Henrik Lund-Nielsen, and Fabian Meyer-Brötz concentrated on industry case studies and the practitioners’ point of view. Particularly dynamic and inspiring was Henrik Lund-Nielsen’s presentation in which he talked about the big gap between the research and business focus, as well as about the need to make research practically applicable.
Transfer of high-quality technical concepts
The concluding presentation by Udo Wiens summarized the workshop and discussed the German way forward, as seen by the DBV and DAfStb. This presentation also raised open questions, which led to a lively discussion and confrontation of different points of view. In summary, the workshop created an opportunity for researchers to present their high-quality technical concepts to a diverse audience, but also enabled two-way exchange between academia and industry. Such an exchange is crucial for the successful implementation of this emerging technology in the concrete sector.
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