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Keeping up with trends and innovation: Techint E&C focused on 3D printing in concrete

Published 3.6.2024

The company is making steady progress with the use of this technology together with CEMEX, aimed at producing the first series of structural elements for an industrial work.

 

Putting the latest innovation trends into practice is critical to incorporating better solutions into projects and processes. Techint Engineering & Construction aims to provide first-class services, seeking to foster alliances with the right partners to offer viable options for industry. The company has been working together with CEMEX since last November to 3D-print storm drainage trenches for the Southeast Gateway Project (SGP).

As part of this joint work, the Techint E&C’s Northern Area Engineering offices have been charged with designing the pieces, which are then printed by CEMEX at its facilities in Mexico City using COBOD's BOD2 printer. Once these are complete, the different pieces are shipped to the project.

 

An entrepreneurial ecosystem

Pamela Hernández, Project QHSE Manager, explains that, “When we started to get an idea of the logistical complexity coupled with the lack of local technical support, we approached the Mexican Chamber of the Construction Industry. As our customer required regulatory compliance and we needed a strategic partner, the Chamber put us in touch with CEMEX, which was already making inroads into this area and had already traveled part of the way.”

Alejandro Aguirre, Innovation & Knowledge Mgmt. Sr. Manager, emphasizes that, “In CEMEX, we found an ally with everything we needed to move forward: the supply of materials, the printer, laboratories, standards, market recognition and technical support.”

CEMEX has several 3D concrete projects under its belt, mostly for the architectural sector, but has never before produced industrial or structural elements.

“This kind of work is complementary and creates a virtuous circle, as it clearly shows that, in order to transform the engineering and construction industry and raise the bar of excellence, we cannot work alone. It’s thus crucial to encourage the entrepreneurial ecosystem to grow,” says Aguirre.

Along the same lines, Hernández adds that, “the degree of interaction between areas has been amazing. These types of initiatives require multidisciplinary work that must be supported within the axes of Innovation that Techint E&C is fostering.”

Exiting the comfort zone

This isn’t the first time that Techint E&C has analyzed options for 3D printing technology. In 2022 the company paid a visit to the facilities of the manufacturing company Hyperion in Finland, but this was a different kind of technology, involving mortar and a robotic arm.

“This particular printing technology is distinguished by including coarse aggregate, along with sand, cement, water and polypropylene fibers, a combination that makes it possible to print elements of a larger volume,” points out Aguirre.

Incorporating technology such as this is also driving the development of new skills. Aguirre says that Engineering is taking part in a workflow with external designers to achieve resistant and “printable” structural parts. “Printing such elements, which have a low structural commitment, means that there’s no need for reinforcement. This in turn implies changes in our design and calculation methodology, which, although not unknown to Techint E&C, is not the one we usually use for this type of components,” he clarifies.

At an industrial level, 3D printing positions Techint E&C at the forefront of industrial development in the use of this technology and brings together three key themes present on the construction innovation agenda: precast, robotization and reducing the carbon footprint.

It is very likely that, in the near future, this technology will be applied in several regions and projects at the same time. In fact, there is already progress in the Southern region where the team is working on a similar initiative.

 

Multiple benefits

Using concrete printing methods has several major benefits, such as:

- An improvement in safety indicators for civil tasks, due to the reduction in exposure to the risks inherent to traditional manual work on site.

-  An increase in productivity, due as much to the technology as to the possibility of being able to work in protected conditions in adverse climates, producing precast parts printed at the projects themselves.

- Traditional precast parts can be replaced or special pieces made to order, which were previously made on site and required several hours of work.

- The significant contribution made to sustainability in construction as this system optimizes the amount of concrete used, reduces the amount of reinforcing steel required, and eliminates the use of wood for formwork, avoiding both the need to purchase it and the waste created when it is eventually discarded.

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