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3D printed concrete wall used for National Highways project

Cambridge researchers, working in partnership with industry, have helped develop the first 3D-printed piece of concrete infrastructure to be used on a National Highways project.

The 3D-printed structure – a type of retaining wall known as a headwall – has been installed on the A30 in Cornwall, where it is providing real-time information thanks to Cambridge-designed sensors embedded in its structure. The sensors provide up-to-date measurements including temperature, strain and pressure. This ‘digital twin’ of the wall could help spot and correct faults before they occur.

Headwall structures are normally made in limited shapes from precast concrete, requiring formwork and extensive steel reinforcement. But by using 3D printing, the team – including specialists from Costain, Jacobs and Versarien – could design and construct a curved hollow wall with no formwork and no steel reinforcement. The wall gets its strength not from steel, but from geometry instead.

Courtesy of Cambridge University