Combining concrete 3D printing and 3D printed formwork

Researchers at Digital Building Technologies institute of ETH Zürich developed a method called Fast Complexity that combines the fabrication speed of concrete 3D printing with the geometric precision of reusable 3D printed formwork to create complex prefabricated concretes slabs using less concrete.

Concrete is one of the most used construction materials, but it is hardly sustainable. The production of concrete is responsible for 8% of our global carbon footprint. By using innovative techniques and optimisation algorithms, the amount of concrete can be reduced to less than half.

Because conventional formwork solutions only allow to build predefined geometries with limited customisability, the researchers developed a new process that allows them to dynamically control the setting rate of the 3D printed concrete.

“This digital control over material properties means that we can extrude a fluid concrete that emulates the complex surface of the formwork perfectly, as well as a fast-setting concrete that does not need any additional formwork for the upper structure,” the researchers say. “Fast Complexity aims to facilitate a more diverse repertoire of contextualised design solutions in real buildings.”

This method allows the implementation of new aesthetics in slaps with functional features on both sides. It also involves less digital fabrication processes, requires less manual labour, and is more resource-efficient in comparison to other fabrication alternatives.

Project Credits

  • Team Ana Anton, Andrei Jipa, Benjamin Dillenburger (Digital Building Technologies), Lex Reiter (Physical Chemistry of Building Materials)
  • Technical Support Eleni Skevaki, Yoana Taseva, Tobias Hartmann, Matthias Bernhard, Pietro Odaglia (Digital Building Technologies),  Philippe Fleischmann, Andreas Reusser, Achilleas Xydis (ETH Zürich), Stefan Miesel (BASF Master Builders Solutions).
  • Photo/Video Axel Crettenand (Digital Building Technologies).
  • This research was supported by the NCCR Digital Fabrication, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NCCR Digital Fabrication Agreement #51NF40-141853).

Photos: Andrei Jipa / Ana Anton / Axel Crettenand / Digital Building Technologies, ETH Züirch


  1. Carl Harris says:

    hello, I find this very fasinating. I am sculptor and have created art out of clay and made molds and cast pieces using concrect combined with other material to create light weight art pieces. The 3-d concept maybe an alternitve to my process. do you have additional info that I could look at.
    Thank you
    CE Harris Studio
    Carl Harris

  2. Sigrid says:

    Dear Carl,

    For more information about this project, it would be best to contact the researchers directly via the link in the article.

    Good luck with your project!

    On behalf of Team MaterialDistrict,