Additive Manufacturing

Integrating Additive Manufacturing into Precast Concrete Facades Challenge

Prototyping the Next Generation of 3-D Printed Molds for Precast Concrete


Precast concrete typically uses handmade plywood molds that are covered with fiberglass coatings. Although somewhat complex designs can be achieved with wood molds as shown in the pictures below, these tend to take a large amount of time and very skilled carpenters. This time-consuming mold manufacturing process can slow down the overall production process in precast plants and tie trained personnel for weeks in a row. Thus, the design of complex precast parts is currently limited by what can be manually assembled with plywood in a cost-effective manner, as well as the availability of skilled personnel. 3D printed molds, however, allow for much greater flexibility in mold designs without affecting their manufacturing time because the amount of time it takes to 3D print simple and complex molds is not much different.

In 2016, ORNL initiated research on 3D printed molds for precast concrete that unlocks the potential for new designs. Initial results suggest that the new process could alleviate shortage of skilled craftsmen who can assemble complex wood molds, produce 3D printed molds that are more durable than wood molds, and allow for easier implementation of last minute design changes. 

The Challenge

JUMP into STEM invites University of Tennessee (UT) students to support the development of mold designs for the precast concrete industry that exploit 3D printing capabilities. The winning idea will showcase to precasters the possibilities that 3D printed molds can offer on designs that:

  • Surpass the potential of wood molds
  • Increase the energy efficiency of buildings by reducing the transport of heat, air and/or moisture through the building enclosure

This JUMP into STEM Challenge requires the submission of a small-scale 3D printed mold (i.e., not greater than 10"×10"×10") that captures the essence of the proposed design and a rendering that shows how the precast part would be used in a building envelope.

The Award

An ORNL Summer Internship will be awarded to the top selected idea submission. The winning UT student or team of students submitters will be invited to work with ORNL research staff for a 10-week summer internship* with the HERE Program.  Potential work focus during the summer internship may include:

  • Work with ORNL research staff on printing the mold design at ORNL's Manufacturing Demonstration Facility
  • Work with ORNL research staff to conduct simulations that estimate energy savings from the proposed precast cladding design
  • Work with ORNL's Building Technologies Research & Integration Center (BTRIC) user facility on investigation of technologies to improve energy efficiency and environmental capability of residential and commercial buildings.

About the Internship: Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education (ORISE) administers an array of programs for ORNL that meet the Laboratory's strategic goals for science education and workforce development, and serve the entire academic continuum for k-12 students and teaches to university students, postgraduates and faculty. Most of the programs can be categorized as research participation. This type of program uses the strengths of the Laboratory to provide mentored research experiences that complement the academic program or provide work-based experience and training. ORISE also works with the Laboratory to administer events or short-term programs that are designed to inform, reach out to specific populations, or offer opportunities for competition.

Idea Submission Deadline

Idea Submission Period Ends: March 1, 2018 at 11:59 PM EST


About this Pilot: Recognizing the value of connecting with early stage innovators, ORNL is launching a 2018 pilot: JUMP into STEM. Leveraging the success of the online JUMP community, ORNL will partner with the University of Tennessee (UT) to advance student skills in the STEM field and encourage early stage research in building energy efficiency. During the JUMP into STEM pilot, UT students will have an opportunity to compete for Awards, including the potential for 2018 summer internships with ORNL.  And in the spirit of crowdsourcing innovation, the JUMP community will still be open to others to comment and vote on the posted ideas. This community discussion helps DOE, ORNL, and industry partners gauge the market's interest in the topic and potential solutions. Students must complete an online application and meet the criteria for the internship program to be eligible to receive the internship.

Jump Into STEM Printed Molds
Jump Into STEM Intro