3D printed constructions? At DuFor we explore the possibilities

Can you imagine driving over a 3D printed bridge in ten years or so? At DuFor we do, because we continue to develop. For example, for the past year we have been developing 3D printable materials that can be used in high-quality construction applications. For this, we are working together with NEDCAM. Through a European subsidy project - in which NHL Stenden and NLR are also participating - we are replacing thermoset composites that can be used for construction. Read further if you want to know more about this collaboration and the latest developments.

Everyone seems to be familiar with 3D printing. But did you know that developments have reached the point where you can print objects several meters high and wide? NEDCAM, which produces plugs, moulds and completely finished products for infrastructure, transport, yacht building and wind energy, is already applying this. Currently, the company is exploring the application of thermoplastic polyesters in the field of 3D printing. And that’s no surprise, because polyester is recyclable and well 3D-printable. We are significantly contributing to this, as NEDCAM uses two materials developed by DuFor for this purpose.

The advantages of 3D printing

One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is the great freedom of form. This allows you to realize shapes that cannot be made using a mould. This, along with the ability to make large objects, means that it has the potential to replace a large proportion of thermoset materials. This reduces labor intensity and the amount of waste, which improves circularity. 

A big step

The step to printing complete structures is a big one and will not happen overnight. It requires a lot of research. The material and the construction must logically meet strict building requirements. Nevertheless, we are already making great strides. In the field of 3D printing, we at DuFor soon had a taste for it. We already printed large lamps and pieces of furniture for the headquarters of Nationale Nederlanden, for example.

Towering ambitions

But DuFor wouldn't be DuFor if our ambitions were a bit higher than printing home, garden and kitchen utensils. For example, we are already producing material for plugs and moulds developed in our lab. This material is reinforced with super strong fibers, so the strength and stiffness is a lot higher than normal polyester. A direct mold is milled to then make an end product from this. Initial conversations for printing complete infrastructures such as bridges are also ongoing. For this purpose, NEDCAM has purchased an even larger printer.

Environmentally friendly and circular is the goal

At DuFor, we also look at the bigger picture. For example, we want to contribute to environmentally friendly solutions by making and keeping products recyclable. In our laboratory, we take a look at the recycling process, how the fibers endure this process and whether any properties are lost. NHL Stenden, which is also affiliated with this partial subsidized project, then investigates the recyclability, together with us. In this way, they mimic the recycling process on a small scale and test whether the mechanical properties hold up.

DuFor goes for the future

3D printing is the future, we at DuFor knew that right away. That's why, step by step, we are increasingly immersing ourselves in this field. That’s also why we have acquired a 3D printer and filament maker. This way, we are exploring how we can use our products even more in the 3D printing market. The advantage is that you can make prototype products from materials at lightning speed.

For example, you can print an object for which you would normally have to design and produce an expensive and complex injection mould to make the product. Or how about simply making a test rod to measure certain material properties? Our staff is also committed to gaining even more knowledge in this area.

Want to know more about developments in 3D printing? Keep an eye on our social channels!

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