GXN – a research-focused spinoff of 3XN, the Danish architecture firm – is looking at new ways of using high-tech robotics within the construction industry. This article explores the potential of these new innovations in terms of creating and maintaining buildings and infrastructure.

GXN’s Break the Grid Program

The aim of GNX’s ‘Break the Grid’ initiative is to create physical and virtual prototypes, developing 3D printing robots that can work outside traditional environments. For example, GXN is currently looking at the use of drones in 3D printing, an innovation that could one day facilitate the use of robotics in carrying out on-the-spot high-rise repairs.

GXN’s aims to ‘set the printers free’ by implementing its visionary understanding of robotics and mobility to develop next generation solutions. The firm leverages existing technology, such as 3D printers and stepper motors already on the commercial market, using them to develop new prototypes that work on land, underwater and in the air.

Break the Grid has outlined three key sectors where autonomous 3D printers show the most potential.

First, GXN predicts that 3D technology could provide solutions to global issues in maintaining infrastructure. Experts estimate that, in the United States alone, unaddressed problems with bridges, highways and other infrastructure could lead to losses of around $4 trillion by the year 2025. GXN is looking at ways of using robotics to repair microcracks in concrete before infiltration by oxygen and water really take hold and cause significant corrosion.

Second, GXN proposes developing 3D printing robots capable of working on the sea floor. Here, they can print 3D artificial reefs from bio materials, repairing damage caused by coastal storms.

Third, GXN is looking at ways robotics can be used to help architects increase productivity, efficiency and safety. Currently, mobile 3D printing technologies remain largely speculative, but GXN maintains that the use of drones and remotely operated vehicles will become an everyday part of the construction industry.

By enabling 3D printing robots to swim, crawl and fly, GXN hopes to address some of the world’s most pressing environment threats. Not only that, but the development of these new technologies will facilitate repairs with greater cost efficiency. For more details, watch the attached video.

3D Printing Technologies in Construction

3D printing has a variety of applications in modern construction. View the attached infographic to read about the Russian house built in 24 hours using 3D printing technologies.

In 2018, technology developer MX3D printed a 12-meter-long steel bridge, to be installed in Amsterdam. Robots ‘drew’ the structure from layers of molten steel.

Meanwhile, a family from Nantes, France, become the first family in the world to live in a 3D-printed house. The four-bedroom home is intended to serve as a prototype for bigger projects in the future. The property took just 54 hours to print, though contractors took another four months to add a roof, doors and windows. View the attached PDF to read about the first 3D-printed office.

Staying Ahead of the Competition

As Chairman of the Mid Group, Sahel Majali recognises the importance of leveraging new technologies to gain a competitive edge over industry competitors. The Mid Group is one the fastest-growing construction companies in the UK today, providing offsite solutions tailored to meet the individual needs of its clients and their projects.

3D building printing offers unique opportunities in terms of saving vast amounts of time and money. Analysts predict that the concrete 3D printing industry alone will be worth around $56.4 million by 2021. Many industry leaders see 3D printing technologies as the future of building, with more and more 3D printing developers setting their sights on construction.