From 10th to 12th September, the first ever multi-day event on the topic of digital fabrication with concrete took place at ETH Zurich. This event was sponsored by RILEM, the leading academic construction materials research society in Europe, with significant organisational support from the National Centre for Competence in Research in Digital Fabrication. Approximately 275 attendees from 26 different countries and five different continents converged to present and absorb research in this new research field. By the conclusion of the conference, an atmosphere of optimism and motivation permeated the attendees, with a general feeling that a new research community had now been established.
The conference itself kicked off on Sunday, 9th September, with a RILEM course for PhD students, in which leading experts gave a series of lectures on structural mechanics, rheology, chemical admixtures and cement hydration, concrete pumping and concrete 3D printing processing to PhD students and young researchers.
The conference was organised around a series of keynote lectures, invited plenary lectures, parallel sessions and poster sessions. The keynote speakers reflected the interdisciplinary nature of the field, and included Prof. Henri Van Damme of ESPCI giving a broad historical perspective of materials science of concrete with a view to the future, Dr. Justin Dirrenberger of XTreeE presenting the view from a startup in concrete 3D printing, Dr. Nicolas Roussel giving material considerations for concrete and digital fabrication, Prof. Dr. Joseph Schwartz of ETH Zurich and the NCCR Digital Fabrication presenting graphic statics, Dr. Jonas Buchli of Google Robotics presenting robotics challenges in digital fabrication and Prof. Dr. Philippe Block of ETH Zurich and NCCR Digital Fabrication director presenting how compression-only structures and architectural design for new digital fabrication methods can bring them to realisation.
The invited plenary lectures were part of a series of invited papers (that also included the keynotes) in a special issue of the journal Cement and Concrete Research, the leading construction materials scientific journal. This journal, along with the RILEM conference proceedings published by Springer, formed the core of the literature attached to the conference.
A final event crossing both conferences occurred with a keynote lecture given by Dr. Chris Luebkeman of Arup on design with digital fabrication. A panel discussion followed touching on broad topics related not just to material challenges in digital fabrication, but also architectural and even social implications. With the closing of the conference, the view moving forward was very optimistic and a general sense of excitement was felt by all attendees, industrial and academic. It was determined that the next edition of the conference will be hosted by Prof. Dr. Theo Salet and the team at Technical University of Eindhoven in 2020, and the community now eagerly the new innovations that will be presented there.
Following RILEM conference requirements, a jury of experts, excluding members of the host institution, was selected to evaluate the papers, presentations and posters. These committees were chaired by Dr. Nicolas Roussel from IFSTTAR (France).
Pioneer of digital fabrication in concrete award: Berokh Khoshnevis, University of Southern California and Contour Crafting Corporation
Pioneer in large scale particle bed 3-D printing: Enrico Dini, D-Shape
Best overall proceedings paper: Freek Bos, Technical University of Eindhoven, for “Large Scale Testing of Digitally Fabricated with Concrete Components”
Best student paper: Anna Szabo, ETH Zurich and the NCCR Digital Fabrication, for “Adapting Smart Dynamic Casting to Thin Folded Geometries”
Best presentation: Typhanie Craipeau, Université Bretagne-Sud, for “Evolution of Concrete/Formwork Interface during Slipforming Process”, and Mariana Popescu, ETH Zurich and the NCCR Digital Fabrication, for “Prototype of a Thin, Vaulted Concrete Floor Using a Knitted, Stay-in-Place Formwork”
Best poster: Samim Mehdizadeh, TU Darmstadt, “Rotocrete”