SCIENCE CHINA Technological Sciences, Volume 61 , Issue 4 : 475-495(2018) https://doi.org/10.1007/s11431-016-9077-7

State-of-the-art of 3D printing technology of cementitious material—An emerging technique for construction

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  • ReceivedNov 7, 2016
  • AcceptedMay 31, 2017
  • PublishedSep 14, 2017


In recent few years, significant improvement has been made in developing largescale 3D printer to accommodate the need of industrial-scale 3D printing. Cementitious materials that are compatible with 3D printing promote rapid application of this innovative technique in the construction field with advantages of cost effective, high efficiency, design flexibility and environmental friendly. This paper firstly reviews existing 3D printing techniques that are currently being used in commercial 3D printers. It then summarizes three latest development of largescale 3D printing systems and identifies their relationships and limiting factors. Thereafter, critical factors that are used to evaluate the workability and printable performance of cementitious materials are specified. Easy-extrusive, easy-flowing, well-buildable, and proper setting time are significant for cementitious material to meet the critical requirements of a freeform construction process. Finally, main advantages, potential applications and the prospects of future research of 3D printing in construction technology are suggested. The objective of this work is to review current design methodologies and operational constraints of largescale 3D printing system and provide references for optimizing the performance of cementitious material and promote its responsible use with largescale 3D printing technology.

Funded by

National Major Research Instrument Development Project of the National Natural Science Foundation of China(51627812)

opening project of State Key Laboratory of Explosion Science and Technology(Beijing Institute of Technology,KFJJ13-11M)


This work was supported by the National Major Research Instrument Development Project of the National Natural Science Foundation of China (51627812), and the opening project of State Key Laboratory of Explosion Science and Technology (Beijing Institute of Technology, KFJJ13-11M).


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  • Figure 1

    (Color online) Illustration of the operating process of (a) SLS, (b) SLA and (c) FDM.

  • Figure 2

    (Color online) Schematic view of the D-shape printer.

  • Figure 3

    (Color online) Largescale structures manufactured via D-shape technology. (a) 1.6 m high sculpture; (b) a complete house printed in one single process; (c) landscape house design based on a Mobius strip.

  • Figure 4

    (Color online) Construction of building using contour crafting printing.

  • Figure 5

    (Color online) Examples of full scale builds from contour crafting printing. (a) Concrete wall with a height of 60 cm; (b) hollow walls with corrugated internal structure; (c) castle printed in-situ; (d) five-story apartment built by WinSun; (e) clay and straw wall, over 2 m and still growing.

  • Figure 6

    (Color online) Schematic of concrete printing, magnified region is the concrete deposition system.

  • Figure 7

    (Color online) 3D components manufactured by concrete printing. (a) Wonder bench (2 m×0.9 m×0.8 m); (b) acoustic damping wall element; (c) curved-layered construction component.

  • Figure 8

    General requirements in the mix design of cementitious mixture for construction-scale 3D printing.

  • Figure 9

    Preparation procedure for cementitious mixture design for construction-scale 3D printing.

  • Figure 10

    (Color online) Breakeven analysis comparing conventional and additive manufacturing process.

  • Figure 11

    (Color online) Imagine drawing of 3D-printed infrastructure project on Mars sponsored by NASA [124].

  • Table 1   Summery of commercialized AM technologies





    Fused deposition modeling (FDM)

    Thermoplastics, eutectic metals, edible materials, rubbers, modeling clay, plasticine, metal clay

    Robocasting or Direct Ink Writing (DIW)

    Ceramic materials, metal alloy, cermet, metal matrix composite, ceramic matrix composite

    Composite Filament Fabrication (CFF)

    Nylon, nylon with short carbon fiber reinforcement in the form Carbon, Kevlar, Glass

    Light polymerized

    Stereolithography (SLA)

    Photopolymer, resin

    Digital Light Processing (DLP)

    Photopolymer, resin

    Powder bed

    Powder bed and inkjet head 3D printing (3DP)

    metal alloy, powdered polymers, plaster

    Electron-beam melting (EBM)

    Almost any metal alloy

    Selective laser melting (SLM)

    Titanium alloys, cobalt chrome alloys, stainless steel, aluminum

    Selective heat sintering (SHS)

    Thermoplastic powder

    Selective laser sintering (SLS)

    Thermoplastics, metal powders, ceramic powders, glass

    Direct metal laser sintering (DMLS)

    Almost any metal alloy


    Laminated object manufacturing (LOM)

    Paper, metal foil, plastic film

    Powder fed

    Directed Energy Deposition

    Almost any metal alloy


    Electron beam freeform fabrication (EBF3)

    Almost any metal alloy

  • Table 2   Similarities and differences of largescale AM process in construction

    Contour crafting


    Concrete printing


    Extrusion based

    Selective binding

    Extrusion based


    Vertical: no

    Horizontal: lintel

    Unused powder

    A second material


    Cementitious material


    High performance concrete

    Printing resolution

    Low (15 mm)

    High (0.15 mm)

    Low (9–20 mm)

    Layer thickness

    13 mm

    4–6 mm

    5–25 mm

    Print head

    1 nozzle

    Hundreds of nozzles

    1 nozzle

    Nozzle diameter

    15 mm

    0.15 mm

    9–20 mm

    Printing speed




    Printing dimension


    Limited by frame

    (6 m×6 m×6 m)

    Limited by frame

  • Table 3   Cost estimates for construction a wall from concrete using traditional method and 3D printing

    Traditional method

    3D printing







    Supply of concrete


    150 m3



    150 m3




    150 m3



    150 m3




    150 m3




    1500 m2





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