In conventional concrete construction, the steel reinforcement is surrounded by a timber formwork to give the concrete its final shape. With their standardised structures, these formworks can be used multiple times. But when a building has an unusual shape the formwork has to be made to measure, leading to high costs, explains the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich in a statement.
Researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a robot called Mesh Mould to overcome this problem. Based on a computer model, it manufactures steel cable grids for various concrete moulds. The grid is then filled with concrete before the surface is ultimately processed. “Thanks to the specific structure of the steel cable grid and the special composition of the concrete mix, the concrete stays inside the grid and does not seep out,” explains ETH Zurich.
With this method, a separate timber formwork is no longer needed, which in turn simplifies the construction of buildings with unusual shapes.
The robot will be used for the first time in 2017 in the NEST building, a modular research and innovation building operated by the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa) in Dübendorf in the canton of Zurich.
But Mesh Mould can already celebrate a major success: it recently won the most important Swiss prize for innovation and technology transfer – the Swiss Technology Award – in the “Inventors” category.