ChangeMaker3D Ltd, a tech start-up based at Malverns Science Park, within the BetaDen accelerator programme in Worcestershire, has achieved a ‘first’ for the UK water industry by demonstrating the use of 3D concrete printed infrastructure.
Working in partnership with United Utilities, they have proved that new technology – known as ‘Printfrastructure’ – has significant environmental, community and cost benefits.
During a 12-month period, ChangeMaker3D worked in partnership with United Utilities to successfully design, 3D-print and install a wastewater chamber at one of the utility company’s test facilities in Cheshire. With testing now complete, the partners say it proves the huge potential of 3D printing for construction and could lead to widespread benefits for other sectors and regions.
In the case of the water chamber, ‘Printfrastructure’ delivered a 25% reduction in carbon, 20% cost saving and 55% reduction in labour versus traditional construction methods. The team also point to the extremely fast build time – the chamber was printed in under four hours, and with a significant reduction in the materials used.
Natalie Wadley, Co-Founder and CEO of ChangeMaker3D, said: “We believe 3D printed concrete has the potential to help deliver the green growth our country needs. We want to prove this is a technology that can bring benefits not just for other parts of the UK, but here in the Midlands in terms of greener infrastructure, jobs and skills.
“After months of hard work, we are thrilled to see the water chamber in situ, with proven environmental and cost benefits. It’s the result of a brilliant collaboration with United Utilities and our team of delivery partners.”
United Utilities’ Chief Engineer (Innovation), Lisa Mansell added: “This is important for us in realising our aim to drive efficiency and improvement in everything we do for the benefit of our customers. Digital technologies such as 3D construction printing can drive efficient construction and help us meet our Net Zero goals for carbon.”
Video: ‘Printfrastructure – Together for a Net Zero Future’
The partners have released a video, ‘Printfrastructure – Together for a Net Zero Future’, which documents the journey of the chamber from concept to testing. It shows how the collaboration came about – driven by shared sustainability goals – and helps viewers get to grips with 3D printing technology.
ChangeMaker 3D were selected for United Utilities’ Innovation Lab at the start of 2021 – a highly regarded competition in which new ideas are incubated and brought to market. Over a 12-week design sprint, they worked with the to design and demonstrate the wastewater distribution chamber. This was then printed offsite in a factory by Dutch technology providers, CyBe Construction. The chamber was craned into position at its new home in Cheshire earlier this year, where further testing has since taken place.