Detailed concretefacades withindustrial 3D printing:the voxeljet company stone

In the metal casting industry, 3D printing of molds and cores has become almost commonplace. It is a little different in the concrete casting, but that will change. Because the 3D printing of formwork elements has considerable potential, especially for the production of complex, structured and detailed elements. The voxeljet company stone shows what is possible when you combine 3D printing, concrete casting and architectural creativity.

You might think that several stonemasons took months of precision work to carve it out of solid stone – but behind it is a completely different production technique: ultra-modern 3D printing.

Instead of removing material from a solid body, complex shapes are printed and later filled with liquid concrete. The work of art thus combines the latest design techniques with state-of-the-art high-tech concrete and is the basis for unprecedented applications in architecture and construction. In addition to complex curvatures that are difficult to form conventionally, 3D printing is particularly suitable for entire concrete facades or individual facade elements.

3D printing as an additive manufacturing process is conquering new fields of application in a wide variety of industries almost every day. Right at the forefront: voxeljet as a leading manufacturer of industrial 3D printers. Metal foundries have so far been the main users of the processes offered by voxeljet. With the help of 3D printing, highly complex shapes and cores can be produced from sand in the shortest possible time and with a high degree of precision. Users can save entire work steps, such as the construction of expensive molding tools, since only a CAD file is required for the production of 3D-printed sand molds and cores. The voxeljet service center then produces these forms on demand.

CAD data of the reverse side of the voxeljet company stone

The printing process: from the CAD-file to the finished real life object

At the beginning there is CAD design. In order to fully utilize the advantages of 3D printing, voxeljet opted for a hybrid formwork, a combination of printed and conventional mold elements. The 3D-printed elements were limited to the complex part, the front of the company stone. Simple geometries, such as straight surfaces, are modelled with conventional wooden formwork.

The complex part of the voxeljet company stone consists mainly of the stone structure with the integrated logo, which emerges from the background structure. The design freedom of 3D printing means, that even highly complex geometries with undercuts and intentional unevenness can be realized without any problems.

In order to start the printing process, the finished CAD file was loaded onto a 3D printing system from voxeljet. The 3D printing system then produced the formwork in one go. voxeljet printed the formwork for the company stone on a VX4000, the largest industrial 3D printing system with a continuous building platform of 4x2x1m (LxWxH), in only one night.

The VX4000 applies sand in an extremely thin layer of only 300 micrometers to the building surface. The print head then bonds the layers selectively with a binding agent. Once the mold is fully printed, voxeljet specialists remove the unprinted sand and clean the mold with compressed air. In order to prepare the mold for concrete casting, the 3D printing specialists infiltrated the mold with a PU dispersion to close pores and simultaneously seal the surface.

The result of the first attempts in concrete casting is impressive. Using state-of-the-art binder jetting 3D printing technology and high level of craftsmanship, 3D printer manufacturer voxeljet has expanded the horizons of traditional casting. “What would have been unthinkable in architecture until a few years ago is now possible through a combination of 3D printing and our specially developed UHPC concrete,” adds concrete casting specialist Keel. With appropriate post-treatment and depending on the application, the 3D-printed formwork elements can also be used several times, for example to enable the production of complex precast concrete parts. The finished stone with the voxeljet logo now decorates the entrance of the voxeljet administration building in Friedberg.

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