As of late it appears that 3D printing is taking construction by storm and changing the industry as we know it. 3D printing is the creation of a 3D object from a digital file. So, what does this have to do with construction you say? Construction contractors around the world are starting to use 3D printing to build out model residential structures, including single-family homes and apartment buildings.
Last month Chinese company Zhuoda Group revolutionized 3D printing with the first 3D printed homes that can be assembled in less than 3 hours. Although these homes are not yet available to the masses, it shows how close 3D printing is to becoming a reality around the world.
How does 3D printing differ from current construction methods? 3D printing involves gigantic printers that use a special concrete that is thicker than normal concrete, which allows it to self-set. You start off with a 3D virtual design of the object you are “building”. From there a program converts the virtual design into a digital file that is then uploaded into the 3D printer. The actual object itself is then broken down into multiple layers, which the printer then morphs all of the layers together, creating a single object with no disconnects.
While the process seems complicated and resource heavy, it actually requires significantly less material and labor costs, creating a less expensive construction method that will hopefully help lower future housing and building. The 3D printers essentially do all of the work, requiring little human effort. Another benefit of 3D printing is faster and more accurate construction. The 3D printer automatically transfers the digital model into a physical one, leaving little room for error.
Reduced waste and environmentally friendliness are other great advantages of using 3D printing over other methods of construction. Most of the materials used during the construction process itself come from recycled products. Additionally, all of the extra materials left at the end can be recycled as well. Lastly, 3D printing reduces the hazardous health and safety risks that are involved with the construction industry. Contractors are constantly putting their lives on the line with dangerous construction projects. 3D printing eliminates these risks altogether.
Although it’s hard to believe, 3D printing is just getting started. There is a lot in store for the future of 3D printing and the possibilities are endless. A few of the ideas on the horizon for 3D printing include applying 3D printing to commercial structures, such as large office buildings as well as 3D printing on the moon. Foster + Partners, a high-profile architectural firm based out of London, is working with the European Space Agency to research the possibility of lunar homes. The development of that project will certainly be revolutionary.
While 3D construction has only been used on very small-scale projects thus far, it will start to gain more traction in the coming years. It’s hard to say right now if it will completely takeover as the number one construction technology. Only time will