3D printing has been slowly but surely replacing traditional manufacturing methods, especially in the aeronautic and automotive industries. It has made several innovations possible in the healthcare industry.
But what about the construction industry? Can we use this technology as a new way of building large structures? The answer to this question is a definite yes!
In fact, over the past couple of years, some companies have been slowly adapting 3D printing as a means of constructing buildings, bridges, and houses. There has also been a slow rise of startups utilizing this technology to demonstrate their idea of the possible future of construction.
Below, we discuss how this revolutionary technology is being used today in the field of construction, the advantages of investing in it, and the predictions on how it will shape the industry in the future.
The construction industry is using 3D printing in six main applications to date - architectural models, interior design, building components, bridges, houses, and buildings. We’ve collated the most notable examples of these applications.
There is a number of companies that have started building houses using 3D printing. In 2015, a Shanghai-based firm, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, built 10 houses using this technology in just 24 hours. Each house they built cost only $5000. A year later, they were able to build a 4,300-square-foot home onsite within 45 days.
A Russian company, Apis Cor, was also able to 3D print a 38-square foot home within 24 hours for a little more than $10,000. The startup's goal is to build affordable homes for people who were made homeless during a natural disaster. This same company proved that custom 3D printing was the key to building unusually shaped houses.
Another application of 3D printing in construction is bridges. Using this technology, BAM Infra and Eindhoven University of Technology created a cycling bridge in the Netherlands. It is made of 800 layers of concrete. The team printed concrete blocks before assembling them to form this bridge. This sustainable structure is strong enough to handle the combined weight of 40 trucks.
Another bridge constructed using additive manufacturing is the pedestrian bridge in Madrid, Spain. This 12-meter long bridge is made of micro-refined concrete that is reinforced with thermoplastic polypropylene. It features an organic design that is meant to blend in with the natural aspect of the park.
There are two excellent examples of 3D-printed buildings - the Dubai municipality office building and the "Office of the Future". The former was created in 2019 by Apis Cor. It is a 9.5-meter building with a floor area of 640 square meters, making it the largest individual 3D-printed building in the world.
The Office of the Future can also be found in Dubai, though it was built earlier in 2016. The Dubai Future Foundation (DFF) used a 3D printer with a robotic arm to create this fully functioning structure. The entire building was completed in just 17 days with a team of 18 people. Compared to traditional methods of construction, this project was able to cut down on waste, construction time, and even labor by over 50%.
Just like in other industries that have since adopted 3D printing, there are numerous benefits to using this technology to build various structures.
3D printers are machines. Machines that can work all day, everyday non-stop. This means that construction projects will be completed much faster. It also means that you'll need fewer people to work on the project.
Construction projects produce a lot of waste, a lot of which are caused by demolitions. However, building a structure traditionally also generates material waste. Generally, construction companies will order more than they need which not only costs more money but is also inefficient.
With 3D printing, a structure is built layer by layer which means companies will only use the amount of material they need. In addition, this technology allows companies to use recycled materials which is good for the environment.
3D printing offers freedom to architects and designers when it comes to design. They are able to create complex, non-standard shapes that can be visually conceptualized in models and later built into real-life structures. This is something that is currently beyond the capabilities of traditional construction methods. 3D printing makes it possible because it builds structures one layer at a time.
3D printing has already made a huge impact on the construction industry. There's no shortage of examples of its various applications. But this is just the beginning. More and more companies are investing in the technology.
Some are already in the process of developing their own 3D printers to enable them to build structures using different materials such as metal and sand. Others are combining 3D printing with smart home technology to create sustainable housing.
As these companies continue to push the boundaries of this technology and discover more applications for it in this industry, there's no question that the future of construction is looking very, very bright.
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.