Beams similar to LEGO pieces, presented as alternatives to concrete

The beams or reinforced concrete blocks are part of the most used materials in the construction of buildings or large structures. Given its characteristics, the use of this construction material involves heavy work and the use of machinery to manipulate it.

These difficulties, which until now are inherent in this activity, could be created back, with the presentation of an alternative material, 3D printed, lighter and easier to use.

Legos, but for construction

The innovation consists of blocks of recycled plastic, high resistance, printed in 3D. According to its creators, there are several advantages that stand out: they weigh up to 80% less than concrete or metal beams, which reduces dependence on heavy cranes or trucks to transport and install them; They are also an alternative with lower production costs; and in addition, they can be printed and assembled on site, which facilitates their installation in any place, including those that are difficult to access.

After almost three years of research, this invention was recently presented. Our goal was to propose an alternative to the current reinforced concrete beams. These are manufactured using profiles built to the length of the part, which requires expensive installation and are difficult to transport., says Jos Ramn Albiol, professor at the Higher Technical School of Construction Engineering (ETSIE) of the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

At a structural level, the polymer profile of these pieces stands out as a novelty, made up of multiple blocks that can be assembled in the area where the structure is to be installed. The blocks are reinforced with elements that guarantee the rigidity of the structure, but without using metallic components. This prevents corrosion, reduces weight, and simplifies the work time required., commented Xavier Mas, from the Heritage Restoration Institute (IRP) of the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

This proposal also eliminates the need to apply formwork or other mold or containment systems typical of working with concrete or other similar raw materials that, due to their own cycles, slow down processes. In addition, this solution allows to reduce the necessary labor and auxiliary resources, which means cost and time savings., adds Jos Luis Bonet, from the University Institute of Concrete Science and Technology (ICITECH) of the Polytechnic University of Valencia.

Another novelty, also present at the structural level, it is a honeycomb structure, which reduces the amount of plastic used and, therefore, its weight, while maintaining structural rigidity, as commented by Albiol.

The application of these 3D printed blocks for the construction of structures and buildings on a large scale, simplifies transportation, saves associated costs, and opens up new customization opportunities for job sites. Being able to customize the beams in situ allows adapting the characteristics of each one of them to the structural needs at each point of construction. The ability to recycle polymeric materials to produce the beams significantly reduces your carbon footprint, concludes Miguel Snchez, from the Department of Systems and Information Technology (DISCA) of the UPV.

In times in which the interest for sustainability prevails or should matter greatly, initiatives like this come with alternatives for areas in which these options are not usually seen to arise frequently.

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