The joint venture between Skanska, Costain and Strabag (SCS JV) is to 3D print concrete structures on the HS2 project, with the first test deployment scheduled to take place in 2022.
The London tunnels contractor will use the technology, called ‘Printfrastructure’, to print structures on site using computer-operated robots, instead of transporting them as pre-cast slabs.
SCS JV’s Worcestershire-based partner, ChangeMaker 3D, has worked with UK advanced materials specialist, Versarien, to add graphene to the concrete mix.
Concrete with microscopic strands of graphene only several atoms thick running through it replaces traditional steel.
SCS JV estimates that the process it is developing with the Midlands firm could reduce the concrete used and contribute toward reducing carbon by up to 50%.
HS2 said the 3D concrete printing could be deployed in physically restricted areas, avoiding the need to develop complicated and potentially expensive logistical plans. Meanwhile, it could also be used near a live railway, delivering works while avoiding disruption to public transport.
The reinforced concrete structures will be printed with an internal lattice structure to add strength, which reduces the quantity of concrete required.
HS2 innovation manager, Rob Cairns, said: “The project SCS JV and ChangeMaker 3D are collaborating on is a fantastic demonstration of the kind of far-reaching innovations HS2 enables. With a build programme spanning the decade and across the country, the project is creating an ideal environment to develop technologies with the potential to transform how major infrastructure is built.”
SCS JV temporary works manager, Andrew Duck, said: “Automation enabled by Printfrastructure’s 3D reinforced concrete printing creates a factory-like environment that delivers a high-quality product that both increases efficient use of materials, and reduces our carbon footprint.
“It is important that we give technologies such as Printfrastructure the opportunity to flourish because of the possibilities it offers the industry to make a step change in how projects are delivered.”
ChangeMaker 3D director, Natalie Wadley, said: "ChangeMaker 3D stands for sustainability in the built environment. Through our Printfrastructure innovation project with SCS JV – a UK first for this technology – and together with brilliant project partners, we are proud to support the rail sector to unlock lower carbon construction."