Concrete With 3D Printed Foam Forms

The latest 3D printing application? ¬†Forming concrete. That’s according to a team at ETH Zurich who claims that construction with foam forms cuts concrete usage up to 70%. It also offers improved insulation properties. You can see a video about the process, below.

Typical concrete work relies on a form often made with wood, steel, or plastic. That’s easy to do, but hard to make complex shapes. However, if you can create complex shapes you can easily put material where it adds strength and omit material where it doesn’t carry load. Using a robotic-arm 3D print technique, the researchers can lay out prefabricated blocks of foam that create forms with highly complex shapes. Continue reading “Concrete With 3D Printed Foam Forms”

3D-printed wall builder, circa 1930s

Retrotechtacular: 3D-Printed Buildings, 1930s Style

Here we are in the future, thinking we’re so fancy and cutting edge with mega-scale 3D printers that can extrude complete, ready-to-occupy buildings, only to find out that some clever inventor came up with essentially the same idea back in the 1930s.

The inventor in question, one [William E. Urschel] of Valparaiso, Indiana, really seemed to be onto something with his “Machine for Building Walls,” as his 1941 patent describes the idea. The first video below gives a good overview of the contraption, which consists of an “extruder” mounted on the end of a counterweighted boom, the length of which determines the radius of the circular structure produced. The boom swivels on a central mast, and is cranked up manually for each course extruded. The business end has a small hopper for what appears to be an exceptionally dry concrete or mortar mix. The hopper has a bunch of cam-driven spades that drive down into the material to push it out of the hopper; the mix is constrained between two rotating disks that trowel the sides smooth and drive the extruder forward.

The device has a ravenous appetite for material, as witnessed by the hustle the workers show keeping the machine fed. Window and door openings are handled with a little manual work, and the openings are topped with lintels to support the concrete. Clever tools are used to cut pockets for roof rafters, and the finished structure, complete with faux crenellations and a coat of stucco, looks pretty decent.

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Reinforced Concrete: Versatile At Any Size?

In our community we’re no strangers to making things, and there are plenty among us who devote their efforts to modelmaking. It’s uncommon, though, for a scale model of something to be made using the exact same techniques as whatever it’s copying. Instead a model might be made from card, foam, glassfibre, or resin. [tiny WORLD] takes an opposite tack, building scale model civil engineering projects just as they would have been for real. (Video, embedded below.)

Here, a scale model of the Hoover Dam bypass bridge is made as the original, from reinforced concrete. In place of rebar is a wire grid in place of wooden shuttering is what looks like foam board, the concrete is a much smoother mortar, but otherwise it’s the real thing. We see the various bridge parts being cast in situ, with the result being as strong as you’d expect from the original.

We can see that this is a great technique for modelling concrete buildings and structures, but it’s also a material that we think might have other applications at this scale. How would the rigidity, strength, and mass of small-scale reinforced cement compare to 20-20 extrusion, 3D-printed plastic, or wood, for example? Regardless, it’s interesting to watch, as you can see from the video below the break.

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Chainsaw Cuts More Than Timber

We often take electricity for granted, to the point of walking into a room during a power outage and still habitually flipping the light switch. On the other hand, there are plenty of places where electricity isn’t a given, either due to poor infrastructure or an otherwise remote location. To get common electric power tools to work in areas like these requires some ingenuity like that seen in this build which converts a chainsaw to a gas-driven grinder that can be used for cutting steel or concrete. (Video, embedded below.)

All of the parts needed for the conversion were built in the machine shop of [Workshop from scratch]. A non-cutting chain was fitted to it first to drive the cutting wheel rather than cut directly, so a new bar had to be fabricated. After that, the build shows the methods for attaching bearings and securing the entire assembly back to the gas-powered motor. Of course there is also a custom shield for the grinding wheel and also a protective housing for the chain to somewhat limit the danger of operating a device like this.

Even though some consideration was paid to safety in this build, we would like to reiterate that all the required safety gear should be worn. That being said, it’s not the first time we’ve seen a chainsaw modified to be more useful than its default timber-cutting configuration, like this build which turns a chainsaw into a metal cutting chop saw.

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Current Sensor Makes Intriguing Use Of Concrete

Getting a product to market isn’t all about making sure that the product does what it’s supposed to. Granted, most of us will spend most of our time focusing on the functionality of our projects and less on the form, fit, or finish of the final product, especially for one-off builds that won’t get replicated. For those builds that do eventually leave the prototyping phase, though, a lot more effort goes into the final design and “feel” of the product than we might otherwise think. For example, this current sensor improves its feel by making use of cast concrete in its case.

The current sensor in this build is not too much out of the ordinary. [kevarek] built the sensor around the MCA1101-50-3 chip and added some extra features to improve its electrostatic discharge resistance and also to improve its electromagnetic compatibility over and above the recommended datasheet specifications. The custom case is where this one small detail popped out at us that we haven’t really seen much of before, though. [kevarek] mixed up a small batch of concrete to pour into the case simply because it feels better to have a weightier final product.

While he doesn’t mention building this current sensor to sell to a wider audience, this is exactly something that a final marketable product might have within itself to improve the way the device feels. Heavier things are associated, perhaps subconsciously, with higher quality, and since PCBs and plastic casings don’t weigh much on their own many manufacturers will add dummy weights to improve the relationship between weight and quality. Even though this modification is entirely separate from the function of the product, it’s not uncommon for small changes in design to have a measurable impact on performance, even when the original product remains unmodified.

Thanks to [Saabman] for the tip!

Hackaday Podcast 087: Sound-Shattering Gliders, Pressing Dashcam Buttons, And Ratcheting Up Time

Hackaday editors Mike Szczys and Elliot Williams dish up a hot slice of the week’s hardware hacks. We feature a lot of clocks on Hackaday, but few can compare to the mechanical engineering elegance of the band-saw-blade-based ratcheting clock we swoon over on this week’s show. We’ve found a superb use of a six-pin microcontroller, peek in on tire (or is that tyre) wear particles, and hear the sounds of 500 mph RC gliders. It turns out that 3D printers are the primordial ooze for both pumping water and positioning cameras. This episode comes to a close by getting stressed out over concrete.

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Take a look at the links below if you want to follow along, and as always, tell us what you think about this episode in the comments!

Direct download (60 MB or so.)

Continue reading “Hackaday Podcast 087: Sound-Shattering Gliders, Pressing Dashcam Buttons, And Ratcheting Up Time”

A Good, Hard Look At Pre-Stressed Concrete

From the looks of the average driveway or sidewalk, it may seem as though concrete is just destined to crack. But if concrete is so prone to cracking, how are we able to use it in so many high-stress applications like bridges and skyscrapers? This question came about while I was researching 3D-printed thermite for an article. Thermite is often used in welding railroad tracks, and I linked a video of fresh tracks being welded that had concrete ties. I knew I had to find out how concrete could be made to withstand the pressure of freight trains.

On its own, concrete is brittle and has no give to it at all. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t strong. Although concrete has good compression strength, the tensile strength is quite poor. Around the late 1800s, someone thought to fortify spans of concrete with steel reinforcing bars, better known as rebar. Steel can stretch, adding steel bars gives the concrete some tensile strength to go along with its compressive strength. Rebar also allows for thinner slabs and other members.

Rebar Only Goes So Far

Parking blocks are meant to be replaced occasionally. Image via Checkers Safety

Rebar or mesh-enforced concrete is good for things like parking lot blocks and roads, but it still fails before it ought to. In fact, it usually has to crack before the rebar can chip in any of its tensile strength.

In high-stress concrete applications like bridges and skyscrapers, it’s terrifically important to avoid deflection — that’s when a concrete member flexes and bends under load. Deflection can cause the modern glass skins to pop off of skyscrapers, among other problems.

A solid, rigid bridge is much nicer to walk, drive, and bicycle on than a bridge that sways in the breeze. But how do you do make a rigid bridge? One solution is to apply stresses to the concrete before it ever bears the load of cars and trucks or a steady schedule of freight trains.

Pre-stressed concrete is like rebar-enforced concrete, but with the added power of tension baked in. By adding stress to the concrete before it goes into service, deflection will be reduced or perhaps eliminated altogether. With the addition of tensile strength, more of the concrete’s own strength is able to come into play.

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