3D printing makes big strides in construction

Whether it is the US Military or commercial developers, everyone is exploring how 3D printing can help them construct better and faster.
12 September 2018

3D printing is making big strides in construction. Source: US Military

There is no doubt that 3D printing technology has great potential. However, in its initial years, not many were confident about the ability of 3D printing to make a meaningful contribution to construction.

Time, however, has changed all that. Today, all sorts of commercial and military organizations use 3D printing for quick and more effective results.

According to a recent announcement, the additive manufacturing (AM) team of the US Marine Corps Systems Command built concrete barracks in 40 hours using 3D printers. The task ordinarily takes 10 marines five days and is done using wood.

“People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it onsite and all at once. This is the first-in-the-world, onsite continuous concrete print,” said AM Project Officer Captain Matthew Friedell.

Research has found that using 3D printing in construction has several benefits.

The Automation in Construction journal, for example, estimates that the technology could help reduce material waste by up to 30 percent, lower energy use, allow in-situ production, and offer extended architectural/design freedom with lesser resource demands and related CO2 emissions over the entire product lifecycle.

Earlier this year, the Eindhoven University of Technology, who is experimenting with this technology, has announced plans to 3D print a series of concrete houses that will be made available to rent.

There’s other research that suggests augmenting 3D printing in construction with other technologies in order to create sustainable (and affordable) housing, build smart homes that cannot be built using existing methods and develop infrastructure that can support tomorrow’s lifestyle needs.

The technology is also expected to help emerging economies that are only now beginning to invest in upgrading their infrastructure and public facilities.

Reports indicate that 3D printing technology will cut construction costs by up to 70 percent, and reduce labor costs by up to 80 percent, greatly reducing the cost to these governments.

According to the Boston Consulting Group, 3D printing is a natural fit with construction

Although nobody today really lives in a 3D printed home and there are no 3D printed cities yet, chances are, tomorrow will be quite different.

Dubai, the commercial hub of the Middle East, according to the World Economic Forum, has committed to using 3D printing technology to construct 25 percent of every new building in the city — given the cost efficiencies and energy savings it offers. But there are other cities in the world that are slowing exploring the technology.

Nantes, in France, for example, has recently 3D printed a home and has told a news bureau that it is now “considering the feasibility of developing an entire district of such homes”.

Tomorrow, therefore, we could be living in a very different world. One with 3D printed homes, bridges, and infrastructure. What kind of a house do you see yourself living in five years from now?