3D printing has the potential to alter patient care in the field of medicine. It has already transformed the automotive industry. Custom 3D printing has enabled people to start a variety of businesses from printing toys to affordable prosthetics. This technology has also enabled architects, interior designers, and property management companies to produce affordable models of their designs. But what about construction? How will 3D printing impact this industry? (Image source: Designbuildings)
Benefits of 3D Printing in Construction
There are several benefits to adopting this technology when constructing structures. It has the potential to drastically reduce the production time and labor costs of building a structure. Because it is a machine, a 3D printer can work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This means that constructing a house can be completed much faster and would require less manpower. The Shanghai firm WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, for example, was able to construct 10 small houses within 24 hours. The company calculated that each house only costs $5,000.
3D printing also has the potential to cut down construction waste significantly, possibly all the way down to zero. Additive manufacturing only uses the amount of material required to create the building layer by layer. Traditional construction methods, on the other hand, often requires companies to order more materials than needed.
Last but not the least, this technology allows companies to build unique, complex designs. Since this technology builds a structure layer by layer, it can easily create unusual shapes that are often impossible when you use traditional construction methods. For example, the Russian company Apis Cor built an unusually shaped house using a 3D printer. And they did it within 24 hours.
Future of 3D Printing in Construction
3D printing can open up the construction industry to new opportunities and better innovations. There are already numerous projects that prove its significant contribution to the industry.
Various companies are already investing in developing their own 3D printers that extrude the material of their choice. Most are developing a machine that can use concrete. Enrico Dini, an Italian architect, has developed a 3D printer that can create layers using a mixture of sand and a binder. MX3D, a Dutch Company, created a 6-axis robot to print metal structures. It won’t be long before other companies will take on the same endeavor – developing their own equipment to enable them to print structures.
But what about actual structures? What can we expect in the next few years? Plenty of 3D-printed construction projects have been completed over the past several years. Most of them started out to prove a concept.
An international team of professionals worked together to build a 3D-printed canal house in Amsterdam. Their purpose? To show the world that 3D printing can be utilized as a new custom housing solution. The Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) constructed a fully functioning commercial building using a 3D printer with a robotic arm. This “Office of the Future” was completed in less than 17 days with a team of 18 people.
A startup in San Francisco printed a 36 sqm house within a day, spending just a little over $10,000 to prove that this technology is a viable solution to the problem of affordable housing. It can also be used to re-house people who have been affected by natural disasters.
Today, there’s no doubt that there are already people living in 3D printed homes. And it is predicted that the number will only grow larger in the future. A few startups are already popping up to help solve the housing crisis in their respective countries such as Urban3D in Brazil and WASP in Italy.
Some governments, such as Singapore, are already approving the use of this technology to create architectural components and items to build a park. Of course, it cannot be discounted that there are still barriers to overcome that currently prevent more companies from adopting this technology. Aside from the current costs of buying or renting a 3D printer and materials, many standards bodies still do not recognize 3D printing as a construction method. Structures will need to be approved on a case-to-case basis.
That being said, it’s only a matter of time when more construction companies will start to see the promise of adopting 3D printing technology as an alternative construction method. You may soon be living or working in a 3D printed structure.
About the author:
Louisa is a content marketing professional and editor creating her successful career past 2 years at D3D Printing. She is a goal-oriented, creative individual with a unique voice in writing, editing, and optimizing content for various projects. She’s a devoted mom and an excellent piano player.