Contractors on the London terminal for the upcoming HS2 (High Speed 2) rail link in the United Kingdom, have confirmed usage of 3D printing for construction from 2022. With exclusive Printfrastructure technology, the developers are aiming at creation of concrete slabs on the site instead of shipping them, unlocking constant construction of tunnels, while restriction disruption towards existing rail lines. Set to start from 2022, this trial will also witness usage of concrete that is graphene-infused as opposed to steel in particular areas, prospectively allowing this line to be developed in a more efficient and sustainable manner.

The Temporary Works Manager at SCS JV Contractors, Andrew Duck, stated that automation that is enabled through Printfrastructure and its 3D reinforced concrete printing, will help in creating an environment akin to a factory which ensures higher quality of products. This technology will also go a long way towards lowering the overall carbon footprint.

Railway travel has already doubled in the country over the last two decades and in spite of investing more than £74 billion for upgrades, Network Rail has not been able to match demand. Overcrowding may potentially be tackled with more upgrades, this may lead to 2,700 weekend shutdowns over 15 years, leading to major disruption of connectivity throughout the UK. The Department for Transport in the UK set up a firm named HS2 in the year 2009 for building a line which would have 300,000 in daily capacity. This line will link London to cities like Leeds and Manchester in the north. Since its launch, however, the project has faced heavy criticism for disruptions, falling short of the scope and the increasing budget, reportedly crossing £44 billion already. COVID-19 has also led to construction delays at several sites, leading to the project dipping into the emergency contingency fund of £1.7 billion.

The decision to choose 3D printing for construction may help in getting the project steadily back on the rails, given the automation and speed prospects of the technology. SCS JV, a joint venture between STRABAG, Skanska and Costain, has now ventured to ChangeMaker3D for process optimization. This is called Printfrastruture and will involve robot-mounted 3D printers for building complex structures out of concrete.

Once they are deployed on the site at the London HS2 terminal, these robots will have the capabilities to access areas which are physically zoned off otherwise. This will lower the requirements for costly and complicated plans of logistics. The automated attributes of ChangeMaker3D procedures will also give it ample potential for lowering travel disruptions since worker safety can only be ensured through suspension of services. Contractors are anticipating that this technology will help in creating structures which are internally latticed and reinforced along with using lesser materials. They are already collaborating to infuse graphics into 3D printable concrete with Versarien. SCS JV feels that this technology may help in lowering carbon and concrete quantities in tunnels by up to a whopping 50%. By taking away steel and lowering dependence on trucks, 3D printing may help in making the whole project environmentally friendly in the future. 3D printing helps in ensuring geometric customization, helping in building structures which have more robust features and also using lesser materials for this purpose.

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