Robotic 3D Printing of Geopolymer Foam for
Lightweight and Insulating Building Elements

Authors Patrick Bedarf, Anna Szabo, Michele Zanini, Benjamin Dillenburger
Published in 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing
Year 2023
DOI 10.1089/3dp.2023.0183

Abstract Foam 3D printing in construction is a promising manufacturing approach that aims to reduce the amount of material, hazardous labor, and costs in producing lightweight and insulating building parts that can reduce the operational energy in buildings. Research using cement-free mineral foams derived from industrial waste showed great potential in previous studies that reduced the amount of concrete needed in composite structures. This article collates the latest developments in this line of work. It presents the material system with its principal components and the advanced robotic 3D printing setup with a climate-controlled fabrication chamber. Print path schemes and hybrid fabrication methods combining 3D printing and casting are evaluated. Furthermore, the article discusses the effect of different print path schemes on the thermal insulation and compressive strength performance of printed parts. A full-scale final prototype synthesizes these findings and demonstrates the fabrication of modular, lightweight, and insulating construction elements that can be assembled into monolithic wall structures. The advantages and challenges of this novel approach are elaborated on in the conclusions. Finally, the article presents future advancements required to leverage this research as a scalable construction method that can help address the biggest challenges in building low-carbon and energy-efficient structures.

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