Purdue researchers test 3D concrete printing system in NSF-funded project


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The transition to clean wind power could become more profitable as researchers at Purdue University test new technology created by an international startup to anchor offshore wind turbines.

RCAM Technologies, which has offices in the US and UK, received a Phase I Small Business Technology Transfer Grant from the National Science Foundation to develop 3D printed concrete suction anchors to replace traditional anchors in offshore wind power plants. The research will be conducted at the Robert L. and Terry L. Bowen lab for large-scale civil engineering research at Purdue College of Engineering.

Gabriel Falzone, director of operations at RCAM Technologies, said traditional anchors for floating offshore wind turbines are made of steel. This makes them expensive and carbon intensive; they also require large vessels for installation.

Purdue University engineers (left to right) Jan Olek, Jeffrey P. Youngblood and Pablo Zavattieri conduct research with Ph.D. student Fabian B. Rodriguez (right) on 3D printing technology at the concrete from RCAM Technologies. (Photo by Purdue University / Vincent Walter) Download Image

“Our 3D printed concrete suction anchors will reduce the cost of anchors by up to 90% compared to traditional drag anchors when used in a shared mooring configuration,” said Falzone. “Suction anchors can accept load in multiple directions, allowing them to be connected to multiple turbines. This can reduce the number of anchors needed per plant. “

Research on anchors will be led by Jan Olek, Professor James H. and Carol H. Cure in Civil Engineering, Pablo D. Zavattieri, Professor Jerry M. and Lynda T. Engelhardt in Civil Engineering, both from Lyles School of Civil Engineering, and Jeffrey P. Youngblood, professor in the School of Materials Engineering.

“Working with Purdue has accelerated time to market and gave us access to essential expertise and facilities,” said Falzone. “Purdue’s expertise in concrete durability and structural testing is among the best in the world. “

Fabian Rodriguez, a Lyles School of Civil Engineering graduate student working on the project, said the research is focused on developing the 3D printing process on a larger scale.

“Being able to understand the behavior of cementitious materials in different 3D printing systems allows us to have a clear idea of ​​the physical characteristics and the quality of the materials that we want to use for large-scale construction in marine environments”, Rodriguez said. “The current robotic system will allow us to produce larger elements on which we can assess properties such as strength and durability.”

Olek said that a difficult aspect of this 3D printed concrete application is that it will be exposed to a marine environment.

“This means exposure to high levels of chlorides which can chemically react with the hydrated cementitious matrix and potentially negatively impact the durability of the anchor,” said Olek. “We are looking at the microstructure of concrete created during the deposition process layer by layer. We want to know how it influences the permeability and the penetration rate of chlorides in the printed element and assess the impact on durability. “

Youngblood said, “3D printing can be overstated because in many cases it’s a more expensive way to make something worse. 3D printing shines where labor costs are high and the structures are unique and / or complex. Here it has the chance to really make an impact, as the construction is very labor intensive and this particular design would be difficult with other manufacturing methods. “

Zavattieri said the research is a great example of collaboration between academia and industry.

“We share know-how and equipment, and yet we are working together to develop new technology that has the potential to enable new and more efficient ways of building structures,” Zavattieri said. “This collaboration allows us to develop these unique capabilities here at Purdue.”

About Purdue University

Purdue University is a leading public research institution that develops practical solutions to today’s most difficult challenges. Ranked in each of the past four years as one of the 10 Most Innovative Universities in the United States by US News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and extraordinary discoveries. Engaged in hands-on, online learning in the real world, Purdue provides transformative education for everyone. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-2013 levels, allowing more students than ever to graduate debt-free. Find out how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at https://purdue.edu/.

Writer: Steve Martin, [email protected]

Sources: Gabriel Falzone, [email protected]

Jan Olek, [email protected]

Jeffrey P. Youngblood, [email protected]

Pablo Zavattieri, [email protected]


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