Article in CPT
Suppliers of building materials are working on construction printing technologies to protect and boost their sales of premixed material. A small startup from Austria is taking an opposing way - pushing hard to lower the cost of 3D printed items by offering an alternative to premixed printing material.
Printstones was founded in 2017, and - after 3 years of development - is now in the process of entering the market. The startup focuses on the development of fully-automated 3D printing processes for concrete and other cementitious materials.
Stationary 3D-printers (printing cells) based on industrial robots are offered as complete solutions. The reach of such printing systems can be between one and four meters leading to a maximum building size of around 2 x 5 m depending on the shape of the object. Extrusion of the cementitious mate- rial occurs at around 30 cm per second, whereas the extrusion volume depends on the selected extrusion diameter and ranges from 0,6 kg to 6 kg per minute.
The application of such a concrete printing system allows the customizable, just-in-time production of various concrete objects. “It doesn’t make sense for mass-production - but it does for mass-customization and smaller quantity product lines”, says Dr. Hengl, one of the founders of Printstones. “We offer complete solutions including hardware, software and printing material.” The systems also include fully automated material mixing and dosing units, which allow easy adjustment of recipes towards local materials. This is a new approach, opposing the more common ready-mix material solutions. The current printable product range is still under exploration and includes paving blocks, border stones, concrete plates, molds, facade panels, counters, free-form objects, stairs and furniture for public spaces. New product ideas keep coming in from existing customers and new partners every day. The young company is also pushing into mobile on-site solutions. “Basically, it is an off-site printing cell mounted onto a tracked vehicle and enhanced with an autonomous navigation technology”, says Dr. Hengl. “In a first on-site test, we were able to print a paving area - by feeding the system with a 3D-model and corresponding environmental data”. The compact design of their first mobile version is a key feature, allowing the vehicle to fit into elevators and through door frames. Furthermore, the use of tracks was chosen over a wheeled platform due to the higher stability and its ability to simply move up and down stairs.