Sustainable concrete mixtures for the 3D printing of breakwater units

22 January 2019

The new research project, set up by Ghent University, construction company BESIX, start-up ResourceFull and engineering company Witteveen+Bos, focus on developing sustainable concrete mixtures suitable for the printing of breakwater units

In the swiftly evolving area of 3D concrete printing, a new research project is set up by Ghent University, construction company BESIX, start-up ResourceFull and engineering company Witteveen+Bos. The research will focus on developing sustainable concrete mixtures suitable for the printing of breakwater units. The combined expertise of the project partners will result in new, innovative and more sustainable solutions in hydraulic engineering.

As the major construction cost of a breakwater unit is related to the logistic resources needed to move the breakwater units from the yard to the construction site, the possibility to print it in situ, possibly even below the water level, would be very advantageous. Moreover, 3D printing would allow to define a tailor-made model breakwater unit, with more complex and optimized shapes in line with local wave patterns and sea currents. In addition, the layered surface, own to the 3D print technique, would allow for additional energy dissipation.

However, printing such massive units is a real challenge as the high binder contents currently used in printable mixtures would cause thermal cracking in addition to the drying shrinkage cracks which are related to this automated production technique. To guarantee the durability of the unit in a marine environment, the research partners want to develop a printable mixture which answers all requirements to print the contour or both the contour and the infill pattern of the breakwater unit.

The environmental impact of the mixture will also be taken into account. In case only the contour is printed, a sustainable filling material will be developed. Its sustainability in the marine environment will be further increased through improvement of the interlayer. Once these challenges are tackled, scale model breakwater units will be printed to investigate their durability and mechanical and hydraulic performance.

The Strategic Initiative Materials (SIM) Flanders and Flanders Innovation & Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) are funding this research project.


About Witteveen+Bos

Witteveen+Bos is a company based in the Netherlands that provides consultancy and engineering services worldwide in the fields of infrastructure, water, the environment, spatial development and construction. With a workforce of over 1,150 employees, the firm focuses principally on complex projects that require high-quality expertise and an integral approach. We apply a multidisciplinary approach based on close collaboration between specialists from various disciplines. Clients are governmental, commercial and industrial organisations, including various types of joint ventures and public-private partnerships. We serve our clients from our head office in Deventer, the Netherlands, five branch offices in the Netherlands, and from our international offices in Belgium, Dubai, Ghana, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia, Singapore, the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

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About Ghent University

Ghent University is one of the leading institutions of higher education and research in the Benelux with 41,000 students and more than 9,000 staff members. The research activities of the UGent partner are supported by the facilities of the Magnel Laboratory for Concrete Research which is the largest Belgian research center in the field of concrete technology and concrete structures.

About ResourceFull

ResourceFull have substantial expertise in the field of residue valorisation, more precisely in the incorporation/application of these residue streams in (high added value) building products. In the past, ResourceFull was involved in the production of a set of real size building material prototypes (bricks, tiles, tabletop), organised a range of full industrial experiments, introducing inorganic polymers in the supply chain, as well as produced an ultra-high strength staircase made of fibre-reinforced inorganic polymer.


BESIX Group is a leading Belgian Group, operating in construction, concessions and property development sectors. It profiles itself as a multi-services Group, catering for multi-size projects. The Group was founded in 1909, since when it has grown steadily and impressively. NV BESIX SA, its biggest subsidiary, is active in practically every field of construction. In addition to the activities of BESIX and its other subsidiaries, BESIX Infra, Belemco, Cobelba, Jacques Delens, Socogetra, Van den Berg, Vanhout, Wust, Franki Foundations, BESIX RED, Lux TP in Benelux-France, the Group is present in Eastern Europe, North and Central Africa and the Middle East, via Six Construct, in Canada, in Sri Lanka and Australia. In 2017, the Group achieved revenues of EUR 2.3 billion. BESIX has about 15,000 employees active on 5 continents.

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