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VIDEO: Singapore university 3D prints bathroom pods in one day

Nanyang Technological University develops technology alongside Sembcorp architecture and engineering professionals

NTU's tech can build an unfurnished bathroom within a day.
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
NTU's tech can build an unfurnished bathroom within a day.

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) – in partnership with Sembcorp Design and Construction, and Sembcorp Architects and Engineers – have developed a machine capable of 3D printing an unfurnished bathroom in less than a day – half the time needed to construct a conventional bathroom using concrete casting.

Developed over four years, the technology could companies build prefabricated bathroom units 30% quicker and 30% lighter than current units.

After printing, the bathroom is furnished with toilet fittings to become a prefabricated unit, ready for use in construction projects.

Its interior includes a sink, mirror, shower, toilet bowl, ceramic tiled walls and flooring, and concealed drains and piping.

The proof-of-concept is aimed at improving productivity in Singapore’s building and construction industry through the use of digital and robotic fabrication methods that can help reduce the need for skilled labour and manpower.

All non-landed residential government land sale sites in Singapore have been required since 2014 to use PBUs in their construction process.

The university's Assoc Prof Tan said 3D-printing a bathroom unit could help manufacturers halve their production time, as well as cutting transport costs, carbon emissions, and site waste.

He continued: “By being able to print-on-demand, companies can save on their inventory costs as well as manpower costs, as they don’t have to hold as much stock and their workers can be redeployed to do higher-level tasks.

"This approach improves the safety of the workplace, since robots are doing the construction of the bathroom unit.”

Printing was carried out in a single build using a six-axis Kuka Robotic arm, which has a reach of about 6m in diameter.

To save material and achieve weight savings of up to 30%, the walls of the PBU were printed in a W-lattice shape.

The research team printed and outfitted two PBUs, each respectively measuring 1.62x1.5x2.8m, which took nine hours to build, and 2x2.6x2.8m, which needed 12 hours. 

Sembcorp’s engineers shared industrial inputs and commented on research findings, as well as provided resources and materials for the exercise.

They also installed architectural finishes and plumbing fixtures on the two printed PBUs and aided in the overall logistics.

NTU’s Singapore Centre for 3D Printing was set up by National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF) to conduct research and development on 3D printing tech to develop and accelerate the adoption of corporate innovation.

In a press statement released by NTU, Lim Tuang Liang, executive director at NRF's research, innovation, and enterprise coordination office, said: “Singapore’s strength in advanced manufacturing technologies is deepening not only in the areas of research but also in the deployment of these technologies by our companies.”

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