The ETH Zurich Digital Building Technologies team has unveiled Airlements, a unique architectural solution for long-lasting and sustainable architecture. Airlements uses moldless fabrication and a large-scale robotic 3D-printing technology developed in conjunction with FenX AG. This study employs 3D-printed geopolymer-based mineral foams to build lightweight insulated construction parts with advantages in terms of material utilization, labor efficiency, and cost-effectiveness. ETH Zurich recycles industrial waste for 3D printed mineral foam and aims to increase the 3D printing method’s load-bearing capacity and precision.

The ETH Zurich Digital Building Technologies team presents Airlements an architectural option for sustainable and long-lasting architecture. The research effort uses 3D-printed geopolymer-based mineral foams to create lightweight insulated construction elements that can save building materials, labor, and prices.

These recycled industrial waste parts can be cast together with foam and covered with a protective layer of cement-free plaster. This gives them a smaller carbon footprint than plastic foam or foamed concrete. The insulating, custom-shaped blocks with hollow interiors can be joined to form a two-meter-tall monolithic system for non-structural walls.

Moldless fabrication is used by Airlements via a large-scale robotic 3D printing technology created at ETH Zurich in partnership with FenX AG. The prototype is made up of four hollow foam segments, each weighing about 25 kg, that were printed before being hardened for one week at a controlled temperature of 20 – 28 °C and relative humidity of 20 – 70%.

As a result, no energy-intensive processing was necessary, which is an improvement over ETH Zurich’s prior study with cement-free mineral foams. The prints’ corrugated texture, which provides a sculptural finish, is the product of a route design that boosts strength after hardening.

The research team has experimented with various densities of the material in order to provide controlled insulation and strength where needed. This, in turn, minimizes the energy required to operate structures and promotes future reuse and recycling of building parts.

Future development will focus on enhancing the load-bearing capability of the elements and the fabrication precision of the 3D-printing method to improve the prototype. Now you know how ETH Zurich recycles industrial waste for 3D printed mineral foam.

About ETH Zurich Digital Building Technologies

Prof. Dr. Benjamin Dillenburger of ETH Zurich leads research into new construction technologies based on the seamless integration of computational design methodologies, digital fabrication, and new materials.

In this context, DBT examines architectural additive manufacturing technologies that have the potential to challenge existing construction paradigms. The goal is not simply to rationalize the fabrication process and increase building quality but also to enable radical new design possibilities.


They convert mineral waste into high-performance, long-lasting insulation for the construction industry. Their technology re-qualifies plentiful mineral waste in order to construct a secure and green future that promotes a circular economy.

They use essential mineral particle characteristics to create highly porous materials with good insulating qualities. Their products offer sustainability without any compromise on performance.

The following characteristics of their high-performance and sustainable insulation foams make them different from others.

  • Converts non-flammable insulating products from inert raw materials
  • Creates mineral waste-based, 100% recyclable insulation foams that emit extremely little CO2 throughout the manufacturing process.
  • Their products possess remarkable and customizable porosity, plus they are extremely heat-resistant and good insulators.
  • Their formulations can be utilized in additive manufacturing to create customized items on the fly.

Also Read: A Sustainable House Built Using 19th Century Straw Bale Construction Practice

What is 3D printing of construction materials?

Industrial 3D printing is a manufacturing-driven technique that turns digital plans or designs into tangible materials and products. It makes use of large-scale equipment fed by floor layouts and building blueprints by the engineer. The machine then receives concrete and other building supplies. The procedure involves laying down thin layers of material, such as liquid or powdered plastic, metal, or cement, and then fusing the layers together.

Types of 3D printing technologies

A variety of methods can be utilized to create 3D-printed materials and concepts. Fused filament fabrication, or FFF, is a 3D printing technique that uses a continuous thermoplastic filament. It is also known as fused deposition modelling (FDM).

Stereolithography (SLA) is an alternative 3D printing method that constructs models, structures, and patterns layer by layer using a photochemical process that uses light to cure a liquid resin.

Source: ETH Z×¼rich


Elliot is a passionate environmentalist and blogger who has dedicated his life to spreading awareness about conservation, green energy, and renewable energy. With a background in environmental science, he has a deep understanding of the issues facing our planet and is committed to educating others on how they can make a difference.

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