Fresh Mix Properties and Flexural Analysis with Digital Image Correlation of Additively Manufactured Cementitious Materials

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Virginia Tech

Recently, additive manufacturing (AM), or "3D printing," is expanding into civil infrastructure applications, particularly cementitious materials. To ensure the safety, health, and welfare of the public, quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC) methods via standardized testing procedures are of the upmost importance. However, QA/QC methods for these applications have yet to be established. This thesis aims to implement existing ASTM standards to characterize additive manufactured cementitious composites and to gather better information on how to tackle the challenges that are inherent when printing with cementitious materials. In this work, fresh mix properties and hardened concrete properties were investigated using current ASTM standards as a starting point for applying or adapting them for AM applications.

Specifically, this project applied existing ASTM standards for fresh mix mortars to measure setting time, flow, and early compressive strength as qualitative indicators of printability, pumpability, and buildability. The fresh mix properties were investigated for 12 different mortar mixes to demonstrate the effect that moisture content, absorption, and sand type can have on these fresh mix properties. The results for setting time and compressive strength demonstrated that there was less variability in the properties when the moisture condition of the aggregate was measured and accounted. Flow was shown to be strongly influenced by the sand type.

Additively manufactured mortars were used to print a box in a layer-by-layer process. To evaluate the effect of layering on the flexural strength, three-point bending tests were implemented using four different loading orientations to explore the anisotropic mechanical properties. The observed anisotropic behavior was corroborated with stereo-digital image correlation data showing the stress-strain and load-deflection relationships. Two orientations (A and B) demonstrated brittle behavior while the other two orientations (C and D) experienced quasi-brittle behavior. In addition, setting a minimum unit weight of 132 pcf enabled an analysis of the effect that defects had on the mechanical performance: specimens greater than 132 pcf demonstrated greater and less variable strengths than the specimens less than 132 pcf. The discussion of how defects impacted performance of the different orientations can be valuable when determining how to effectively model, design, and inspect 3D printed structures in the future.

The findings of this thesis confirm that existing ASTM standards for mortars can be modified and applied to AM cementitious composites for QA/QC. It is recommended that mixtures used in 3D printing of cementitious composites should design and accommodate the moisture condition of the aggregate to optimize the predictability of the fresh and early-age properties. For the hardened properties, it is recommended that testing procedures such as flexural testing account for anisotropic behavior. Furthermore, for implementation of 3D printed concrete structures, it is highly recommended that design is a function of loading orientation due to the anisotropic properties of the composite.

additive manufacturing, material extrusion, 3DCP, concrete, mortar, cementitious materials, rheology, fresh mix, flexure, three-point bending, anisotropy, anisotropic