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Sweden-based construction company Skanska and Loughborough University have signed a collaboration agreement to explore opportunities for 3D printing technology in the construction industry.

As part of the initial 18-month programme, a commercial concrete printing robot will be developed by laying down successive layers of concrete until the entire object is produced.

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Skanska will collaborate with Foster and Partners, Buchan Concrete, ABB and Lafarge Tarmac for the project, with the aim of finding uses for the new technology and helping to develop a 3D printing supply chain.

“3D concrete printing…has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours.”

Skanska director of innovation and business improvement Rob Francis said: “3D concrete printing, when combined with a type of mobile prefabrication centre, has the potential to reduce the time needed to create complex elements of buildings from weeks to hours.

“We expect to achieve a level of quality and efficiency, which has never been seen before in construction.”

The agreement will allow Skanska to licence 3D concrete printing technology, which has been developed through research at Loughborough University, and apply it to real applications.

The technology can create items as complex as structural components, curved cladding panels and architectural features.

Following the agreement, Skanska will be in a position to capitalise on an emerging technology, which it believes has potential to revolutionise design and construction processes.

Image: (Left to right) Professor Simon Austin, Rob Francis, Professor Steve Rothberg and Dr Richard Buswell. Photo: courtesy of Loughborough University.