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Practical Application Of 3D Printing In Civil Engineering

Jan 02, 2020

3D printing can greatly accelerate the production from food to prostheses. In civil engineering, 3D printing also offers great potential for repairing roads and working on bridges and dams. Enhance road repair and resilience technology

Highway maintenance usually falls under the responsibility of civil engineering. Road maintenance workers usually repair potholes, but they don't like the heavy equipment required for the job because it can cause traffic jams. With 3D printing, repairing roads may soon become easier and more mobile.


A streamlined portable 3D printer originally redesigned for ice. However, its inventors are adjusting the design to make it compatible with tar and asphalt. Keeping the roads in good shape may also require in-depth investigations by civil engineers about the cause of their collapse. In the country's populous Amish area, off-road vehicles and horseshoes can be difficult to drive on the sidewalk. One solution that may require 3D printing is the studs for the horse. It has a larger surface area than horses previously used, and may be more pedestrian friendly. Users can also change spikes according to different seasons. These options use different approaches to road infrastructure maintenance. However, both examples illustrate how 3D printing can play a key role in solving problems or reducing the frequent occurrence of problems.

3D printing for river management

Civil engineers who contribute to water-based projects are familiar with the use of cofferdams. They clear water from submerged work areas, and cofferdams with water can be installed quickly because they use existing water sources to fill them. An example of using a cofferdam in civil engineering involves installing a 25-meter flood gate for a river in England. It will protect about 14,000 homes and businesses from floods. 3D printed templates are working globally, including work such as dams.


The application of 3D printing in civil engineering has not been extended to cofferdams, but it can still be used if civil engineers work on any project related to river management. A company said that in a small town in China, it printed a 500-meter-long river bank to protect the coast from adverse effects such as strong currents and rising water levels. We have also seen many 3D printed reef plans.

Improve embedded sensors

Civil engineers often rely on fiber optic sensors to measure things like temperature, pressure, and strain. Therefore, they can be used for performance verification. However, the installation of the sensor poses obstacles. For example, installing a single sensor in place can cost hundreds of dollars, and concrete is not an ideal sensor installation site due to its high alkalinity. Researchers have developed 3D printed packages for the sensors that are durable and easy to install. The team concluded that laboratory tests proved that the enclosure is suitable for all extremely sensitive measurements. A Purdue team has also created sensors for Indiana roads to detect when areas under construction are reopened.


If the new concrete bears the weight prematurely, it may crack. Purdue's sensors are not 3D printed, but perhaps the technology could also be applied to its production. Placing printed sensors on light poles, roads, and other infrastructure can make them easier to maintain, safer, and cheaper.

Increase options for bridge construction

3D printing made headlines in 2017, when the first prestressed concrete bicycle bridge in the Netherlands was opened to users. It has six elements, each of which contains a maximum of 90 layers. Although the bridge is only 6.5 meters long, it shows engineers the possibility of using this 3D printing application.

Then, it was reported that recently, Shanghai, China became the home of the world's longest 3D printed bridge. Its total length is 26 meters. The structure took 450 hours and had 44 concrete units. Robotic arms helped build the bridge, which has a built-in monitoring system that tracks the degradation of concrete over time. These bridge construction methods have not been widely used. However, they should encourage civil engineers to explore new technologies and see if 3D printing meets their needs.