Skip to main content

3D-printed paste could hold buildings together amid natural disasters

3D Printed Cement‐Based Materials with Bioinspired Design

A 3D-printed cement paste could one day be used to make buildings more resilient to natural disasters, claim researchers from Purdue University. Although it sounds paradoxical, the paste actually gets tougher the more it cracks. This makes it a potentially invaluable new building material.

“Cement-based materials such as concrete are brittle and crack as they deform,” Reza Moini, a doctoral candidate in the Lyles School of Civil Engineering at Purdue, told Digital Trends. “Using the findings of this work, we can produce structural elements for buildings and habitats that can resist dynamic loads such as impact, experienced during [an] earthquake, without failure.”

Jan Olek, a professor of civil engineering and another researcher on the project, noted that nature has to deal with weaknesses to survive, so the team is using the “built-in” weaknesses of cement-based materials to increase their toughness. They have done this by creating 3D-printed materials inspired by the properties found in arthropod shells, the shells belonging to animals such as lobsters and beetles. The biomechanical design of these shells allows them to take large amounts of punishment.

Some patterns which the printed paste could be used to replicate include honeycomb patterns or printed filaments following a helicoidal pattern. “3D printing has removed the need for creating a mold for each type of design, so that we can achieve these unique properties of cement-based materials that were not possible before,” said Jeffrey Youngblood a professor of materials engineering at Purdue.

This isn’t the first time we’ve covered innovative or futuristic building materials. Other research projects in this vein have included spray-on cement able to help older buildings survive earthquakes, and a smart graphene coating which changes color to indicate breaks and fractures.

“There are several questions and opportunities that we still need to answer,” Pablo Zavattieri told us. “We still do not understand the role of the rheological properties of fresh cement paste — as it is being extruded through the 3D printer, and it is deposited and put at rest on top of the already printed structure. We also do not know the properties of the new architectured materials during the first hours and days, as the cement paste goes through [its solidification] process. This involves all kind of mechanisms at different length scales, such as shrinkage and drying. We are going to explore the role of controlling weak interfaces.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Advanced Materials.

Editors' Recommendations

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
AMD’s 3D-stacked Ryzen 7 5800X3D is ‘world’s fastest gaming processor’
AMD CEO presenting new CPU.

The first processor to use a 3D V-Cache technology was announced at the big AMD CES 2022 keynote. The tech was first announced at Computex 2021, and fans have been eagerly awaiting a processor that will put it to use.

That processor is the Ryzen 7 5800X3D, which seems like a strange place to start a new range of processors. AMD has its Ryzen 9 chips, after all. That's because the new Ryzen 7 can outclass AMD's Ryzen 9 5900X while gaming, despite using the same architecture.

Read more
Need a last-minute Halloween costume? Check out these 3D-printable getups
3D printed Halloween costumes

Still not sure what to dress up as for Halloween this year? Well, instead of frantically scrambling around town looking for the right shop with the right stuff, have you considered 3D printing your Halloween costume? Check out our list of 3D-printable masks and costume pieces to get all geared up for this year's spooking, then fire up that printer.

If you've already finished your costume and want to get started on your scary movie watchlist, we've put together a list of the best horror movies on Netflix.
Squid Game soldier mask

Read more
NASA is testing a 3D printer that uses moon dust to print in space
The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility, and the print heads, plates and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station.

The Redwire Regolith Print facility suite, consisting of Redwire's Additive Manufacturing Facility and the print heads, plates, and lunar regolith simulant feedstock that launches to the International Space Station. Redwire Space

When a Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) this week, it carried a very special piece of equipment from Earth: A 3D printer that uses moon dust to make solid material.

Read more