Advanced materials engineering group Versarien plc has announced the completion of the construction phase of a civil engineering project, which leans on 3D printing technology, undertaken with a subsidiary of Costain Group plc.
Versarien has been working with Costain to develop designs for and bring into production a 3D printed headwall.
The headwall was for use in highway construction projects, part of the Digital Roads of the Future Partnership, a collaboration led by the University of Cambridge, Costain and National Highways, of which Versarien is a partner.
Traditionally, the headwall structures had been made from precast concrete, utilising extensive steel reinforcement, and with limitations on the shapes of structures able to be precast. Through use of an alkali activated cementitious material (AACM), and 3D printing technology, the company has created a curved form headwall that it says is naturally strong and does not need the same reinforcement.
Versarien says that the approach has enabled steel to be entirely removed from the walls of the structure.
During the 3D printing process, a series of sensors have been installed in the structure according to a scheme provided from Cambridge University, which is working on the National Highways Digital Roads initiative. The data provided includes temperature and movement from the point of printing to the structure’s performance on site.
Neill Ricketts, Chief Executive Officer of Versarien, said: “We are delighted to have partnered with Costain to produce this innovative structure that we believe provides significant benefits over those produced using traditional manufacturing techniques. In utilising Versarien’s materials engineering expertise and understanding of the latest techniques, we have highlighted how new technologies can be employed to provide a solution to improve product performance, lower cost and reduce the carbon footprint.
“We believe this represents the first use of 3D construction on a National Highways project and we look forward to the headwall being installed, demonstrating the viability and attractiveness using this technology and Versarien’s know-how on future projects.”