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  • Writer's pictureSafer Highways

Costain installs the UK’s first 3D printed concrete water chamber

Costain has supported United Utilities and technology innovators ChangeMaker3D to advise, deliver and install the first 3D printed concrete chamber for testing in the UK water sector to significantly reduce carbon, cost, and time.

The trailblazing move sees the water sector taking the lead on an innovative technology known as ‘Printfrastructure’.

During a 12-month period, ChangeMaker3D worked in partnership with United Utilities to successfully design, 3D-print and install a wastewater chamber at one of the utility company’s test facilities in Cheshire. With testing now complete, the partners say it proves the huge potential of 3D printing for construction and could lead to widespread benefits for other sectors.

Gavin Stonard, Costain’s Water Technical Development Director said: “A 3D printed structure of this kind is ground-breaking within the UK water sector. We work with water and wastewater companies to develop solutions that improve water quality, affordability and resilience.

Partnering with United Utilities has highlighted how technology can provide novel solutions to help overcome industry challenges on safety, and efficiency, whilst driving down carbon.”

‘Printfrastructure’ is shown to deliver a 25% reduction in carbon, 20% cost saving and 55% reduction in labour versus traditional methods. Built in under four hours with a significant reduction in the materials used, the printing process for the water chamber has demonstrated safety benefits by reducing the requirement to work at height or in confined spaces.

United Utilities’ Chief Engineer (Innovation), Lisa Mansell said: “This is important for us in realising our aim to drive efficiency and improvement in everything we do for the benefit of our customers. The future is exciting for water companies like United Utilities who are trailblazing innovation. We have a huge capital programme to deliver under tight deadlines. Digital technologies such as 3D construction printing can drive efficient construction and help us meet our Net Zero goals for carbon.”

Natalie Wadley, Co-Founder and CEO of ChangeMaker3D, said: “After months of hard work, we are thrilled to see the water chamber in situ, with proven environmental and cost benefits. It’s the result of a brilliant collaboration with United Utilities and our team of delivery partners, including CyBe Construction, Costain, Constructure, Ainscough and AutoMutatio. Thanks to them, we have achieved several UK ‘firsts’ – including the design, print and installation of a 3D concrete printed component for this sector, and the UK’s first crane lift of a 3D printed structure.

“Our mission is to support industry to leave a lighter footprint and transforming the UK’s infrastructure is critical if the UK is to reach ‘Net Zero’. We believe 3D printed concrete has the potential to help deliver the green growth our country needs. Our aim now is to continue to work with United Utilities to grow the impact. We want to prove this is a technology that can have widespread uses not just in the water sector, but for rail and highways, too.”

Since installation, the Costain Managed Service Provider team has supported the UU innovations team to install and test the chamber which has involved supplying and modifying access scaffolding, trialling repair methods and trialling the creation of post-fabrication additions to the chamber.

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