Towards a water-wise world Annual report 2014

Don’t take the lead, but contribute and benefit as well  

A glimpse into the future: 3D printing in the water sector

18 September 2014BTO

3D printing is taking off in a big way. KWR gives the water companies insight into the opportunities and possibilities of 3D printing, and into the technology’s threats and risks. The institute also offers the companies advice concerning their participation and involvement in 3D printing development.

KWR studies trends that are of relevance to the water sector, and translates them into the opportunities and risks they represent for the water companies. This supports decision-makers and agenda-setters in making medium-term strategic choices – such as investments in distribution systems and treatment plants – which actually require forecasting capabilities of tens of years. Thanks to trend research, the water sector is well prepared for the future.
“3D printing is attracting lots of attention,” says Jan Peter van der Hoek, executive officer at Waternet and professor at TU Delft. “In Amsterdam a canal-side house is being built using 3D printing, and at TU Delft the possibilities of 3D printing are being researched in The Green Village. It’s great that KWR is exploring the possibilities for the water sector.”

Support decision-makers and agenda-setters in making strategic choices

New possibilities with 3D printing

KWR conducts an impact study on 3D printing within the water sector’s joint research programme (BTO) Trends theme. The technique is becoming increasingly accessible, extensive as well as cheap. Perhaps water companies could use it to install or repair pipes without having to excavate – and immediately incorporate sensors in the process. Or they could scan in the dimensions of breaks in pipes and print out new sections on-site. 3D printing could also enable the production of treatment plants with an entirely new technology. A short film presents an overview of the possibilities regarding this trend (click on CC for captions).

“It’s great that KWR is exploring the possibilities for the water sector”

Working together with developers and researchers

At the water companies’ request, in September 2014, KWR researchers conduct an analysis of this trend by balancing the possibilities offered by 3D printing against the choices the companies are currently confronted with. The researchers advise that it would be preferable for the water companies not to take the lead themselves in the development of 3D printing technology, but to plug into the innovations by working together with developers, researchers and other sectors in which 3D printing is being tested – e.g., in testbeds or pilots. One key condition for the effective absorption of new technologies such as 3D printing, is the ICT expertise and training of the water companies’ staff.

© 2017 KWR Watercycle Research Institute

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