3D printed steel. Source: Arup
3D printed steel. Source: Arup

Arup, an engineering and design firm located in the UK, has developed a method for designing and 3D printing critical structural steelwork components to be used in construction projects.

 “Arup engineers are pushing the boundaries of 3D printing to take the technology firmly into the realm of real-world, hard hat construction.” said Arup's Salomé Galjaard. Using the latest 3D printing techniques, the Arup team created a redesign of a steel node for a light weight structure that they say will make construction cheaper and less wasteful.”

“By using additive manufacturing we can create lots of complex individually designed pieces far more efficiently.” commented Galjaard. “This has tremendous implications for reducing costs and cutting waste. But most importantly, this approach potentially enables a very sophisticated design, without the need to simplify the design in a later stage to lower costs.”

Currently, traditional methods of manufacturing are cheaper, but Arup expects this to change shortly.

EOS, a 3D printer company, did an environmental lifecycle comparison study of additive manufacturing to traditional manufacturing. The company found that over 40% of CO2 emissions were reduced by using Direct Metal Laser Sintering (DMLS) 3D printing technology through weight-saving from optimized geometry. DMLS also reduces waste by 25% by using only the material that is needed to create the part.

Arup designed 1,200 different configurations for the prototype and the node's weight could be reduced even further without compromising its ability to handle the required loads, Galjaard told Global Construction Review.