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Centre for Additive Manufacturing at the National University of Singapore launches 3D printing programme

The Centre for Additive Manufacturing (AM.NUS) at the National University of Singapore recently announced the launch of the AM.NUS Construction 3D Printing Programme to accelerate the adoption of 3D printing building technology in the construction industry. The programme, hosted under the School of Design and Environment (SDE) at NUS and supported by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC), will develop sustainable materials and 3D printing designs to facilitate the rapid mass production of building structures.

3D printing technology has transformed manufacturing in a wide array of sectors including the medical, precision engineering and aerospace industries. It has enabled these sectors to significantly accelerate production and lower costs. 3D printing technology has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry, boost efficiency and increase cost savings. Added benefits include improved building structures, better designs, eco-friendliness, and sustainability. If adopted widely, construction 3D printing will empower nations to meet the growing demands for housing, sanitation facilities or even rebuild cities rapidly.

The new AM.NUS Construction 3D Printing Programme will help to realise the value of 3D printing in the construction sector and establish an ecosystem of construction 3D printing capabilities in Singapore through cutting-edge research and collaborations with the industry. The programme also aims to provide training on construction 3D printing to NUS students and industry partners and organise events like conferences and workshops in the construction 3D printing space to encourage knowledge sharing in the area.

In addition, a construction 3D printing laboratory has been established as part of the programme and will house Singapore’s largest gantry type concrete 3D printing machine. The technology will be employed to test new building designs and materials with the aim to develop concrete structures that can be easily mass produced by 3D printing in a sustainable manner.

Both the programme and laboratory will be based at SDE with researchers working closely with the industry on a range of research projects.

The AM.NUS Construction 3D Printing Programme has since embarked on two research projects:

1.       3D printed toilet units to improve sanitation in India: This project will be carried out in collaboration with the NAMIC and the Hamilton Labs to accelerate the production of toilet units in India and improve sanitation in the country. The lack of sanitation has posed serious health problems for residents in India and the construction of toilets remains largely manual and ineffective. Researchers from the AM.NUS Construction 3D Printing Programme have developed a novel toilet unit design that can be 3D printed in under five hours, which currently takes a day to build manually and is also 25 per cent cheaper to produce by 3D printing. The new toilet units have since been completed at NUS and will be shipped to India for installation soon. The researchers are also looking into incorporating recycled materials in the concrete used to construct these toilets in the next phase. To address the challenges of building a toilet in India the team conducted exhaustive field studies in different parts of India develop this 3D printed toilet. Each toilet unit is made up of 12 smaller modules which can be transported to the destination where the toilet unit will be assembled and installed.

2.       World’s first 3D printed volumetric formwork for bathroom units: Formworks for concrete constructions are traditionally made with steel or timber, and currently, a typical HDB bathroom unit takes almost a day to construct. The new formwork, which replaces steel and timber with a polymer, could potentially construct up to 24 bathroom units in a day using a semi-automated production line. Researchers are now working with local authorities and a local firm to advance the project. 

By coupling the latest 3D printing technology know-how with the suite of research capabilities in building materials and design at NUS, the new unit could contribute towards making construction more efficient and sustainable.

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