IMDEA Materials joins the effort to construct a more sustainable future through 3D printing

  • The recently-launched CONSTRUCTADD project, coordinated by the Politecnico di Milano, is focused on implementing metal 3D printing in the steel construction sector to reduce waste and emissions.
  • IMDEA Materials’ role in the project will involve developing improved post-processing heat treatment and surface finishing techniques for 3D-printed steels.

An international group of researchers is out to prove that the wide-scale use of metal 3D printing in steel manufacturing can reduce energy consumption in the steel construction sector by up to 30%.

That’s the goal of the recently launched, Resource-Efficient Steel Construction Using Additive Manufacturing, or CONSTRUCTADD project, which kicked off recently in Milan, Italy.

IMDEA Materials is one of 11 members of the European Union’s Research Fund for Coal and Steel funded partnership which is being led by the Politecnico di Milano.

The research effort comes as energy prices around the world have soared in recent months.

The European steel construction industry, meanwhile, faces clear threats, such as heavy competition from outside Europe, high labour and resource costs, and mounting environmental legislation.

“CONSTRUCTADD will accelerate the transition of the steel construction sector toward a more sustainable production model,” explained Dr. Ilchat Sabirov, head of IMDEA Materials’ Physical Simulation research group and the principal IMDEA Materials researcher involved in the project.

“The project aims to show that the sector can reduce energy consumption by approximately 30% and create less waste during fabrication than existing manufacturing methods.”

The construction industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters and the sector accounts for more than half of all the steel produced globally each year.

IMDEA Materials’ role in CONSTRUCTADD will focus on developing improved post-processing heat treatment and surface finishing methods in order to optimise the microstructure of the 3D-printed steel product. 

Heat treatment is widely used in metals production and involves heating and cooling the material in a controlled way to obtain the desired mechanical properties. In the case of CONSTRUCTADD, the objective is to produce 3D-printed steels with improved mechanical and application-related properties.

“The heat treatment process is extremely important here as 3D-printed steel parts typically contain high residual stresses due to the nature of the 3D-printing steel manufacture process,” Dr. Sabirov explained.

“This process involves a unique thermal cycle characterised by the rapid melting and solidification and simultaneous re-melting of the previously solidified underlying layers.

“The residual stresses caused by this process result in the material possessing lower fatigue limits, lower strength and lower fracture resistance.”

“If we can reduce these residual stresses and thus improve the steel’s key characteristics, we can use less of it to achieve the same results. This ultimately means you need less raw materials and lower energy consumption in the manufacturing process.”

Sabirov added that the increased use of metal 3D printing, or metal additive manufacturing as it is also known, in the construction sector also opens up myriad possibilities beyond the key goals of reducing the industry’s carbon footprint.

 “Modern architecture is increasingly using more, and more complex shapes which are difficult to create and manufacture using traditional techniques,” he said. “Using 3D printing in such situations could help greatly in fabricating more complex pieces.

“You also have the advantage that you can bring a 3D printer with you and print the components you need on-site, which could be very useful and could greatly increase the efficiency of the construction process.”

The CONSTRUCTADD kick-off meeting was celebrated in Milan, on the 8th and 9th of September. IMDEA Materials Institute is one member of the international consortium which, alongside coordinators the Politecnico di Milano, also includes the University of Pisa, RWTH Aachen, Prima Industrie S.p.A., BLM Group, Det Norske Veritas, CIMOLAI SPA, VALLOUREC, MIMETE and ArcelorMittal Vitry.

CONSTRUCTADD aims to identify and develop rules and procedures to regulate the use of 3D printing for sustainable steel construction applications, in compliance with EU Regulation n. 305/2011. The project is funded by European Commission, Research Fund for Coal and Steel (2022-2026).

To learn more about this project, visit: