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The day-to-day challenges of managing institutional and commercial facilities remain the top priorities for maintenance and engineering managers. But smart managers also are keeping one eye on the future, watching for emerging technologies that are likely to have a tremendous impact on facility maintenance and engineering, not just design and construction.
Consider the example of 3D printing. Researchers at Rice University recently used 3D printers to create structures known as schwarzites that until now have only been theorized, according to an article in Global Construction Review. The German scientist Hermann Schwarz proposed shwarzites in the 1880s. They are 3D lattices with repeating patterns that look similar to honeycombs.
A study published in science journal Advanced Materials, describes the way a computer algorithm was used to create small porous blocks that can support large weights. Researchers say that if developed on a larger scale, a single schwarzite block could be used as the structure for an entire building.
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“The geometries of schwarzites are really complex; everything is curved, the internal surfaces have concave curvatures and the morphologies are very interesting,” says Chandra Sekhar Tiwary, a Rice University postdoctoral researcher. “The theory shows that at the atomic scale, these materials can be very strong. It turns out that making the geometry bigger with polymer gives us a material with a high load-bearing capacity.”
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The study says the next step will be to make the blocks lighter and to refine the structure’s surfaces with higher-resolution printers. Beyond that, the team want to 3D-print schwarzites on a larger scale using metallic and ceramic materials.
This Quick Read was submitted by Dan Hounsell, editor-in-chief of Facility Maintenance Decisions, email@example.com.