Bam in talks to use 3D-printing on Heathrow expansion
22 Nov 2019 By Miles Rowland
Bam is looking to roll out its 3D-printer concrete production capability to the UK and is in talks with Heathrow about using it on the airport's expansion, Construction News can reveal.
The contractor opened a concrete 3D-printing factory in Eindhoven, Netherlands, in January and is now working on the world's longest 3D-printed bridge for the city of Nijmegen.
Royal Bam is now looking to use its expertise in other markets.
Bam Infraconsult innovation adviser Jeroen Nuijten, told CN: “We are talking to different customers. For example, London Heathrow has a huge amount of work that needs to be done [on the expansion], as well as a big problem with how to do it logistically.
“They are in the process of creating a tender, and we'll see if we are [selected as] a partner for them.”
Heathrow Airport declined to comment on the discussions.
The airport's commercial delivery director Emma-Jane Houghton told CN in September that the expansion would be delivered through mixed-use construction hubs whose function would change over time.
It plans to use four offsite hubs to deliver the major expansion work, which includes a new runway.
Mr Nuijten said that representatives from London Underground and Thames Tideway have also visited the company's 3D-printing factory.
Royal Bam Group digital construction director Menno de Jonge told CN at the Autodesk University conference in Las Vegas that the process could become more economical than conventional concrete builds.
He said: "At the moment we [work with 3D-printed components] at about the same price as traditional construction, but we estimate that in 1-2 years, the price will drop to about 75 to 50 per cent of that."
He also revealed: "With the Netherlands factory we can ship [3D-printed] components to the UK no problem. We are also thinking about opening factories in the UK and Ireland."
Bam previously set itself the target of producing a one-storey 3D-printed house by the summer of 2019, though this has been slightly delayed due to issues with gaining planning permission, Marco Vink, marketing manager of Saint Gobain Weber Beamix, part of Bam’s 3D-printing consortium said.
“We are ready to produce the house but you can imagine when you start to do something new there are no rules or regulation. The local authority has to approve something which only exists in plans. That is a little bit difficult and takes a bit of time,” he said.