Life-size LEGO bricks will be built from recycled waste

Brunel University London has launched a new project to 3D print LEGO-style bricks from recycled construction waste.

These life-size LEGO bricks will be used in a tight, interlocking pattern to build new buildings, working in much the same way as regular LEGO does. The engineers working on the DigiMat project aim to develop an innovative cement mix that will be used to build the eco-friendly bricks.

The project was backed with funding from the EU Commission. The goal of the engineers is to find a way to reduce waste in the construction industry, which is one of the most polluting sectors in the world. Each ton of traditional cement produces up to 0.85 tonnes of carbon dioxide. These LEGO-style bricks would be a clean and affordable solution that simultaneously reduces construction waste.

“Nearly half of all materials extracted from Earth annually are used in concrete,” said Dr Ghaffar, who leads the Additive Manufacturing Technology in Construction (AMTC) research group. “Our objective is to decrease the CO2 footprint of printed products against traditional virgin concrete and cementitious mortars, through the development of printable mixtures that will use up to 100% recycled aggregates.”

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The end result of the project will hopefully be a demonstration of the team’s technology, where they will print out a series of 50cm by 50cm recycled bricks. These square bricks will then be able to slot together in an interlocking wall, similar to those you will know from LEGO builds.

“Demonstration projects built over the past few years have shown both the viability and potentials of 3D printing technologies, however, these projects have used conventional raw materials in their concrete feedstock,” said project lead Dr Seyed Ghaffar. “The use of recycled waste-driven secondary raw materials to replace virgin aggregates for 3D printing of a building block has not yet been done, but we hope to demonstrate it with this project.”

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