Editorial Feature

3D Printing Buildings - The Future of Construction

Image Credits: Roman Sakhno/shutterstock.com

With the construction industry facing tighter deadlines and demand for cheaper construction in recent times, attention has turned to technology. The 3D printer has been used in a variety of projects and can be adapted for larger construction projects. Not only does construction reduce the time it takes to construct structures, but it can also decrease waste on-site.

The company that seems to be leading the charge comes out of China. Winsun has used the technology to print 10 small family houses in just a day. Later the same year, the company used the 3D printer to manufacture a five-story apartment. Even more impressive, Winsun’s latest project was an elaborate 11,840 square foot mansion. The project was completed in a month, cost $161,000 and only needed an eight-man team.

This futuristic technology was actually first developed in the 1980s, however, the most recent reincarnation involves micro casting and spraying materials in layers. This new technique is thought to be a basic overlapping sequence program, which allows for flexibility in the design as well as intricate detailing.

The two methods of constructing are known as D-Shaping and contour crafting. They each come with their own benefits and disadvantages however both methods of printing include hollow walls and latticework reinforcements. These features make the walls cheaper, give room for insulation and allow for a sturdy construction.

In addition to the benefits already discussed, a study by CNET.com has concluded that "this process can save from 30 to 60 percent of construction waste; can decrease production times by 50 to 70 percent, and can decrease labor costs by 50 to 80 percent."

While 3D printing can shorten a time frame of a project, it is also true that it is very economically viable. By reducing labor costs and project time, 3D printing allows for a lower project budget while also allowing for complex structures. While it was true that smaller 3D printers used to cost around $20,000, now a desktop-sized printer costs around $1000. This is an incredible price drop that allows the technology to become more prevalent in our lives.

According to Forbes, the 3D printing market is said to increase. In 5 years, the industry has seen growth to $16.2 billion from just $2.5 billion in 2013 where 80 percent of the sales can be attributed to business and construction.

With the growing number of advantageous and the ever-decreasing price tag, it is not surprising that 3D printed housing is becoming more popular. In fact, according to the director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Techniques at the University of Southern California, Behrokh Khoshnevis, believes 3D printed structures could be the norm in just five years.

With the construction industry usually being slow to adapt to new technology, the short time frame shows just how revolutionary the idea of 3D printing is. The technology is quickly evolving and new types of construction projects are being undertaken.

Sources and Further Reading

  • Building Solutions. (2018, July 9). Is 3D Printing Buildings the Way of the Future? Retrieved from Building Solutions.

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