3D Printed Concrete Canoe

A two-day long concrete canoe race is held every few years in Germany, combining a fun sport and the latest development in concrete technology together. Over 1,000 participants from universities in Europe joined the Concrete Canoe Regatta, totalling 90 boats racing on the Rhine River in Cologne, Germany. concrete canoe The teams competed to have their canoe titled as the lightest, fastest, most aesthetically pleasing, and lastly, to receive the honorary award for best innovative design. The most important requirement for the competition was that the canoe had to be made entirely out of concrete. The winning concrete canoe of the 16th Concrete Canoe Regatta was called SkelETHon. It was a collaborated design between DBT (Digital Building Technologies) and the PCBM group (Physical Chemistry of Building Materials). Both collaborators are from ETH Zurich. DBT provided computational design and digital fabrication expertise to the SkelETHON project while the PCBM group developed the concrete mixes and processes to construct the canoe. The four-meter-long SkelETHon was designed using topology and shape optimization algorithms which reduce the standard material requirements of a traditional canoe design. The material is redistributed into a skeleton-like structure to maximize the boat’s stiffness. SkelETHon has a concrete inner structure that is reinforced with steel fibre. The exterior is covered by a layer (2 to 3 mm thick) of waterproof concrete skin. The plastic formwork of ETH Zurich’s canoe was 3D printed and cast in ultra-high performance, fibre-reinforced concrete. This formwork weighed just over 4 kg while the entire SkelETHon was 114 kg. The details on the high-resolution surface texture were so precise, measuring to as small as half a millimetre. ETH Zurich was the winner of the Concrete Canoe Regatta for the third time in a row. The competition’s jury highly praised SkelETHon for its unique design approach.

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