Move Over Steel, Carbon-Reinforced Concrete Is Here

Reinforced concrete is the miracle material which made possible so many of the twentieth century’s most iconic structures, but here in this century its environmental footprint makes it something of a concern. As part of addressing this problem, a team at TU Dresden in Germany have completed what is believed to be the world’s first building made with carbon-reinforced concrete, in which the steel rebar is replaced with carbon fiber.

New materials are always of interest here at Hackaday, so it’s worth reading further about the nature of the reinforcement. The carbon fiber is woven into a mesh, or as a composite material that mimics existing rebar structures. These two types of reinforcement can be combined in a composite to produce a concrete structure much lighter than traditional steel-reinforced ones. If you page through the architecture critic description, it’s this lightness which has enabled the curving structure of the Dresden building to be so relatively thin.

The carbon saving comes presumably in the lower energy cost from not smelting iron to make steel, as well as the need for less concrete due to the lightness. All we need now is a low-carbon replacement for Portland cement.

Want to know more about concrete reinforcement? We’ve got you covered.

Concrete Coffee Table Can Take A Beating

A good coffee table should have a hard-wearing surface and some serious heft to it. This build from [designcoyxe] hits both those criteria with its concrete-based design.

To create the table surface, the first step was to create a form. Melamine was used for the job, thanks to its smooth surface. A rectangular form was readily fabbed up, sealed internally and waxed, and then the concrete was poured. For added strength, the form was only half-filled, and a mesh was added for reinforcement. The rest of the concrete was then poured in to complete the tabletop. The table legs themselves were crafted out of maple, formerly used as a butcher’s block. The light wood makes a great contrast to the dark grey concrete. Plus, the stout, thick, wooden legs are a great combination with the strength of the tabletop itself.

It’s hard to overstate how good concrete is as a coffee table material. It’s difficult to damage and difficult to stain. Plus, if you really need to drive a point home, you can be certain slamming down your mug will get everyone’s attention (just be wary of injury). We’ve seen some other great concrete furniture before, too.

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Concrete Boat Cements Its Way To High Speeds

Steel is scarce. Wood is not an option. And you need a boat now. These wartime circumstances drove innovation in all kinds of crazy directions, and one somewhat less crazy direction — concrete boats. As [Peter Sripol] demonstrates in the video below the break, making an RC concrete boat isn’t hard. Making a fast one on the other hand is. But that didn’t stop him from trying, and we think the effort deserves a look.

Starting with a basic displacement style hull, [Peter] and his cohorts experimented with a simple RC boat that worked, but could only move at slow speeds. They turned things up a notch or two and instead modeled their concrete boat after an RC speedboat hull that they had on hand.

The construction methods left a lot to be desired though, and they even tried various wire meshes as rebar, but they proved too heavy. Eventually though, they got a working hull, and had some fun with it. Rather than try to make the hull watertight with a rudder and propeller, they opted for a ducted fan and an airboat style rudder to make what they call the “world’s fastest concrete boat”.

Whether it’s the fastest or not is unconfirmed, but it is fast and actually gets on step fairly nicely. We applaud the exploration of alternative materials and the experimentation with different build methods. If building things with concrete floats your boat, then be sure to check out this concrete pinhole camera.

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3D Printed Concrete Beam Improves Sustainability

Many of the 3D printed houses and structures we’ve seen use concrete and are — frankly — a little underwhelming. Making big squares out of concrete isn’t that hard and while we are sure there is some benefit, it isn’t overwhelming. [Andy Coward] apparently felt the same way and set out to find ways that 3D printing could offer unique benefits in building structures. The result: a beam that would be difficult to create with conventional techniques but is easy to make with a printer. The advantage is that it uses 78% less concrete than a conventional beam with the same properties.

The key is that in a normal beam, not much of the concrete is bearing a significant load. It is simply there because you need some concrete on one side of the beam and then some more on the other side. In the center, surprisingly little of the concrete actually supports anything. The new beam takes advantage of this along with a steel reinforcement at a strategic point. Still, it uses 70% less steel than a typical reinforced beam.

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Can You Build An Industrial Grade CNC With Only DIY Resources?

[FloweringElbow] aka [Bongo] on YouTube is certainly having a go at this, and we reckon he’s onto a winner! This epic flatbed CNC build (video, embedded below) starts with some second hand structural I-beam, with welded-on I-beam legs, DIY cast aluminium side plates and plenty of concrete to give a strong and importantly, heavy structure.

The ideal machine is as rigid as possible, and heavy, to dampen out vibrations caused by high-feed speed cutting, or the forces due to cutting harder materials, so bigger really is better. For construction of the frame, steel is pretty strong, and the mass of the structure gives it additional damping, but triangulation was needed to counteract additional twisting. He stitch-welded the pre-heated frame in inch-long sections to limit the heat transferred into the metal, minimizing the subsequent warpage. [Bongo] used hacky Vibratory stress relief (VSR) constructed from a washing machine motor and eccentric weight, clamped to the frame, with feedback from a mobile phone app to find the resonant frequencies. There are other videos on the channel devoted to that topic of such stress relief techniques.

Precise enough to cut sticky-backed vinyl at half thickness!

When it came time for adding even more mass, a priming coat was made from a mixture of bonding epoxy and sharp grit, intended for non-slip flooring. The concrete mix used Portland cement, pozzolan (Silica fume) polycarboxylate superplasticiser and 1/2″ glass fiber threads. A second mix added crushed stone for additional mass. A neat trick was to make a handheld vibratory compactor from a plate welded onto the end of old drill bit, mounted in an SDS hammer drill.

Once the frame was flipped the right way up (collapsing the overloaded hoist in the process) it was necessary to level the top surface to accept the linear rails. This was done using a super runny, self-leveling epoxy, and checked by flowing water over it. Once the epoxy surfaces were adequately flat and coplanar (and much scraping later) the linear rails were attached, after creating some epoxy shoulders for them to butt up against. End plates to attach the Y axis lead screws, were added by bolting into the frame with a grit-loaded epoxy bond in between.

The gantry design was skipped for this video (but you can see that here) and once mounted a quick test showed the machine was viable. One curious task was making their own cable-chain from ply, on the machine itself, rather than buying something expensive off-the-peg. Why not? Once the machine was working well enough to mill a flat sheet of steel to nice reflective surface, it was used to mount a DIY drag-knife to cut out shapes in some vinyl, so it has the precision. We did like seeing an XBox controller used to manually jog the machine around! So much to see in this build and other related videos, we reckon this channel is one to watch!

We’ve featured CNC builds many a time, there’s a build whatever your needs and budget, but here’s a good starting point to build a machine, just good enough to build the tools you need. If you don’t happen to have a source of structural I-beam to hand, you can do something quite capable with wood, and if you fancy a go at 3D printing a knee mill, we’ve got that covered as well.

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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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