Civil engineering lecturer involved in first global 3D Concrete Printing Summer School

Dr Jacques Kruger, a senior lecturer and Laboratory Manager of the Department of Civil Engineering at Stellenbosch University (SU), was invited to be one of four lecturers to develop and present the first International Summer School on Additively Manufactured Concrete Structures that took place in Capri, Italy in July 2023.

There is an enormous growth in the global market share of 3D concrete printing in construction, while skilled engineers in this field are relatively scarce due to the technology being in the developmental stage toward maturity. The summer school allowed lecturers to contribute by collating expert knowledge in 3D concrete printing and conveying it in a structured approach to future leaders.

Dr Kruger says the plan is to host a series of summer schools on this topic, potentially including Stellenbosch as host in the near future. “It attracted significant interest globally, with 30 PhD students and industry leaders completing the course. Dr Marchant van den Heever, an alumnus of the Faculty of Engineering at SU, and Jean-Pierre Mostert, a current PhD student from the Civil Department, also attended the Summer School,” he says.

Prof Costantino Menna from the University of Naples Federico II hosted the event and The International Federation for Structural Concrete (fib) and The International Union of Laboratories and Experts in Construction Materials, Systems and Structures (RILEM) were the sponsors.

Expanding the construction industry with digital technologies

Dr Kruger started his PhD in 3D Concrete Printing in 2017 under the supervision of Prof Gideon van Zijl, who initiated 3D concrete printing research at the Civil Department. Dr Kruger successfully designed, procured and manufactured the first industrial-grade gantry-type 3D concrete printer in Africa.

He says: “To date, our group has produced pioneering research in this field, publishing more than 50 international research papers in high-impact factor journals. We have graduated more than 35 BEng students, nine master’s students and 13 PhD students on 3D concrete printing-related research topics.”

They have also designed and built a larger, 16 m² build volume 3D concrete printer equipped with a large, automated silo for continuous printing as well as a state-of-the-art end effector that allows real-time functional grading of the printing material.

“Development of the facilities by the PhD students has been key to fundamental understanding and technological innovations. Team members have received various prizes for innovation,” says Dr Kruger. “Ultimately, we aim to unlock the true potential of additively manufactured concrete technologies and transform the largely unindustrialised global construction sector into a smart, sustainable and lucrative industry. The next milestone for us, together with industry partners, is the successful large-scale 3D printing of a house toward the development of standards for certification,” he adds.

Various local industry partners contribute in-kind sponsorship, ranging from construction materials to industry representative bodies and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) funding.

Notable alumni from this group include:

  • Dr Gerius Moelich, global head of material services at COBOD in Denmark;
  • Dr Marchant van den Heever, chief technology officer at Harcourt Technologies in Ireland;
  • Dr Seung Cho, assistant research professor at Ulsan National Institute of Science & Technology (UNIST) in South Korea; and
  • Frederick Bester, head of research and development at 14 Trees in Kenya and Switzerland.

Photo on the left – (f.l.t.r.) Dr Jacques Kruger, Dr Marchant van den Heever and Jean-Pierre Mostert at the summer school.
Photo on the right – (f.l.t.r.) Dr Jacques Kruger and Prof Gideon van Zijl with PhD students Ms Rue Munemo, Mr Mustapha Jaji, Mr Kamoru Ibrahim and Mr Jean-Pierre Mostert.

[Article by Amber Viviers]