WSP and RCAM Technologies are working on several innovative 3DPC applications. These include wind turbine towers and land-based wind turbine foundations; support structures for offshore wind turbines; anchors for floating offshore wind turbines, as well as deep-sea pumped, hydroelectric storage units; and floating offshore solar energy structures.
“Our applications and designs will fully engage the benefits of 3DPC,” Wernli said. “There’s already exponential growth in this technology’s use and development. The technology is impacting the housing sector and its reach is expected to eventually expand into heavy infrastructure.
“At this point, WSP and our clients can learn how 3DPC can be used now and into the future.” He added. “The use of 3DPC will first grow in less challenged structural and non-structural components before finding application in components for large infrastructure.”
Shifting Labor and Environmental Stewardship
The unique features of 3DPC also contribute to the challenges companies face when implementing the technology in their projects. For example, while this manufacturing process is suitable for vertical construction, it’s challenging for horizontal structural components.
Additionally, there’s not yet an ideal solution for this printing process to reinforce concrete components. This is because the material is orthotropic, meaning it behaves different when loaded in one direction than in another direction.
WSP’s work to help design and configure 3D-printed structures helps address these challenges. The firm continuously engages in a feedback cycle with 3DPC industry practitioners to identify potential solutions and improve current printing technologies, and to help clients like RCAM realize projects beyond construction codes that weren’t written with 3DPC considerations.
With 3DPC there are community and environmental considerations that need to be considered.
“Automation will cause a shift in labor skill from the more traditional construction worker to printing operators and maintenance workers,” Wernli said. “This means that additional workforce will be needed for the planning and programming for printing, printer setup, and development of future generation printers and materials.
“Environmental stewardship is another important aspect that needs to be considered for the future success of 3DPC,” he continued. “This includes the development of low carbon and energy footprint materials. Other, non-cementitious materials are already in development such as polymer concrete and wood composites.”
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