Brief 

ETH Zurich plans to build a tower with organically-shaped, 3D-printed, white concrete columns. The 75-foot-tall White Tower which will be built on-site by robots in a small village in Switzerland.

 

Insight

Architects and engineers from ETH Zurich are planning to build a 23-meter high tower made up of 3D printed columns which will become a cultural site in the small village of Mulegns in Switzerland.

The project’s goal is to revitalize the area, which is home to just 16 inhabitants, and to strengthen the association between culture, research and technology development, according to ETH Zurich’s Vice President for Research, Detlef Günther: “Because new knowledge often emerges where various disciplines meet.”

The tower will be built using robotic 3D printers on-site, and at 75 feet will supposedly be one of the tallest ever 3D printed structures built by robots.

“Eggshell” 3D printing with ETH Zurich

For concrete to be 3D printed in a construction setting, it typically needs to be supported by formwork as it transitions from a fluid material into a solid, which can be costly. Orthogonal structures also remain the norm, with many buildings constructed using more material than is really needed. While FDM 3D printing has shown promise within construction applications, the method’s speed, scale, and inability to produce thin printed structures to hold the concrete in place has somewhat prevented its widespread adoption.

In July 2020, researchers from ETH Zurich fused robotic large-scale FDM 3D printing with casting methods to devise a novel “eggshell” concrete 3D printing process. The technology enabled the team to produce complex structures in a more material-efficient way while also minimizing the lateral pressure on the material to allow for printed sculptures with more complex geometries.

 

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