In support of Singapore's Research, Innovation and Enterprise (RIE) 2020 plan, the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) has opened a research centre that will develop solutions in 3D printing.
According to the university, 3D printing/additive manufacturing is one of the cross-cutting technologies that undergird and support Singapore's key industry sectors such as in Aerospace and Defence, Marine and Offshore, and Building and Construction. The global market for additive manufacturing is also expected to grow to US$21 billion by 2020.
To tap on this opportunity, the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing will groom the "next generation of 3D printing engineers" and develop 3D technologies that will change business models and the way things are being manufactured, said NTU President Prof Bertil Anderson.
The centre will be led by NTU Professor Chua Chee Kai, who will be assuming the role of the Executive Director.
According to NTU, scientists at the research centre will work on several new developments including a new way to 3D print customised concrete structures for buildings, such as rooms, beams and pillars. This process is expected to be more cost effective and environmentally friendly than current casting methods.
Conventionally, concrete structures are made by casting - a process where wet concrete is poured into a specially made mould, before it dries and forms the desired object. Now, concrete parts in multiple shapes and sizes can be 3D printed by uploading the design blueprints on to the 3D printer. Wet concrete is then printed out layer by layer to form the desired items. The operator can move on to another design without the need to construct costly individual moulds.
The research centre will also look at automating the production of a fibre-reinforced construction material, where concrete is sprayed into a surface with supporting wire mesh. The new process will allow for new advanced materials to be combined with concrete to make stronger walls.
The research centre's activities will be funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF) Singapore, under its Medium-Sized Centre Grant at a funding of S$42 million over 10 years. But the funding does not stop there - the centre has also bagged an additional S$41 million in funds from industry and various government agencies, said NTU.
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