Digital Building Technologies (DBT), a team at ETH Zürich, is revolutionizing construction with their latest innovation: 3D printed foam from recycled waste for lightweight insulated walls. Known as Airlements, this project utilizes large-scale additive manufacturing technology to create customized building components without the need for molds, reducing costs and resource consumption.

DBT leverages a cement-free mineral foam by FenX, which has a lower carbon footprint compared to traditional concrete or plastic foams. This versatile material can be manipulated to increase density and porosity, enhancing insulation and structural strength without additional resources. Moreover, since only one material is used, the 3D-printed components can be easily reused or recycled in the future, promoting sustainability.

Airlements comprises four 3D printed foam components, each weighing approximately 25 kilograms, allowing for easy assembly by a single person. The printing process takes less than an hour per component, followed by a week of controlled hardening in the fabrication lab. With temperature and humidity carefully regulated, no energy-intensive processing is required—a significant advancement over previous experiments with cement-free mineral foams.

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Author: Phillip Keane,
Image: Patrick Bedarf and Hyuk Sung Kwon,