3D printing first came to being in the 1980s, but people were not aware of its immense potential back then. Even a few years back, it was limited only to prototyping and manufacture of spare parts. But now, things are changing, and the technology (also known as Additive Manufacturing) is set to revolutionize the manufacturing and other sectors. From product design to manufacturing, 3D printing has come a long way, but it is still moving forward, overcoming new challenges and diversifying its scope.
Besides aerospace and automobile, healthcare, and consumer goods manufacturing industries, additive manufacturing is set to transform the construction sector as well. The sale of portable 3D printers has increased over the globe, and more advanced devices are being introduced in the market. The 3D printers for construction purposes are one of these advancements that are taking the industry by storm. Depending on specified techniques, these printers can print several components in several materials and colors. Firstly, a 3D digital model is created, followed by prototyping and manufacture. The printer reads the CAD files and produces the component, layer by layer, resulting in the creation of a replica. Although it can be a tad difficult to recreate metal, a mold can be produced and later shaped into the 3D component.
What are the current and future trends in 3D printed constructions?
Experts at the University of California have already developed a process called contour crafting, which involves the printing of small concrete models to use on the walls of houses. They are also working on a massive 3D printer that can help develop these walls in as low as 24 hours. In Shanghai, companies use large 3D printers that can use quick-dry cement and recyclable materials to create highly affordable demonstration houses. In the future, such trends can go as far as constructing real houses with 3D printing technology. Already, a Dutch company is working on the construction of full-sized houses using the technology to create awareness of its immense potential.
Besides residential and commercial buildings, 3D printing is also finding its way into the construction of infrastructural elements. In 2016, Spain inaugurated its first 3D printed pedestrian bridge in Madrid. From design to manufacture, the entire work was carried out by ACCIONA, a Spanish multinational enterprise involved in renewable energy projects, and the development of infrastructure. The printer that helped develop the footbridge was a D-Shape one. It helped optimize the uniform distribution of materials and enhance structural performance through complete creative freedom to dispose of the materials, layer by layer, only where needed. This footbridge sets an international example of the scope and potential of 3D printing, which every construction industry can refer to.
Using additive manufacturing in the construction industry is in itself a trend of the future. The industry still needs to overcome challenges of material expansion, technological advancements, affordability, and knowledge. Dedicated 3D printers for concrete and other construction materials should be developed and implemented at a large scale. In England, the Loughborough University has developed one for printing concrete materials after years of research and experimentation. These robotic printers can form definite concrete shapes precisely the same way as traditional methods. 3D printing concrete has several other advantages that construction companies are exploring now. The speed at which the modern printers extrude concrete is unmatched and impossible to achieve with regular methods. Further, the process is not cost-intensive, thus indicating a future with more affordable homes.
But the question is, will these 3D printed buildings or houses be safe for inhabiting? Can they withstand weather extremes or unfavorable climatic conditions? Will these houses save us from natural disasters? Let us discuss the matter in detail.
Are 3D printed homes safer than traditional ones?
Concrete 3D printed homes, built keeping the basic principles of construction in mind are safe to live in. A Texas-based construction company, called ICON, is a pioneer in building 3D-printed houses. It has already developed a 350 square feet house using a giant 3D printer in just two days. This is a big improvement and a living proof of the potential of the technology in constructing homes. The experience may seem like a sci-fi movie, but it is real. The company is planning to expand its 3D printing initiatives to build not only houses but an entire neighborhood. Besides, Dubai-based companies are also utilizing the technology to build office buildings.
New Story, a global pioneer in the home-building industry that aims to reduce homelessness in developing countries, has partnered with ICON to take their 3D printed homing endeavor to the next level. They plan to build homes in 24 hours or less with advanced printers. Most of the people in developing countries experience a lack of safe homes and have to live in wooden shacks, which is both unhealthy and dangerous. The concrete homes built with additive manufacturing technology can ensure a safe and affordable living option for these people, who struggle to make ends meet every day.
Concrete is regarded as one of the most durable and resilient building materials in modern times. The builders have to introduce a mixture of water, concrete, and other materials into the 3D printer to create a hybrid mortar that hardens almost instantly, giving the home its structural foundation. These houses are also sustainable and safe, tolerating extremes of weather conditions and natural disasters.
Using 3D printers to develop buildings also reduces carbon emissions that result from traditional methods of construction. As the entire process is localized, it also lowers the costs of transporting building materials. Further, the technology will reduce waste in construction and back the sustainability movement.
However, the primary challenge is to convince the builders and regulators to drop their tools and embrace the printer. Potential residents may also be reluctant to move into homes that have been constructed in a day.
They have to be made aware of the convenience and affordability of 3D printed homes, besides assuring them of safety. You need to understand that all technologies that seemed science fiction a few decades ago are pretty much real today. Did our predecessors ever think that they could see someone from another part of the world just with a few taps on a handheld device? But such instances are quite common today, thanks to the development and expansion of internet connectivity and related technologies. Additive manufacturing too will see its bright days in a few years with safe and affordable homes, bridges, and other concrete structures being built in less than 24 hours.
What is the impact of 3D printed homes on real estate?
It is needless to say that the real estate industry has to go through some major upheavals if 3D printing takes the front seat in construction. The house prices will come down, and the market will become more competitive. However, the brighter side is, more people in developing countries will buy homes instead of building them. In the developed countries, the situation may be a little more complicated. While 3D printed homes will increase in number, people may take more time to leave their age-old habits of living in conventional ones. So there will be no major disruption in the real estate market in the next few years. But after the initial hesitance fades away, real estate companies should focus on other areas of development to stay in the competition. They have to embrace the technology or go into oblivion.
But there will be some advantages to 3D printed real estate development. The construction processes will be cheaper than in recent times, as fewer resources will be utilized to build sustainable homes with additive manufacturing. Hence, the total cost of development will come down, thus providing more scope for the real estate developers to execute multiple projects within a definite timeframe. On top of that, they will require less manpower, as most of the construction work will be automated, thus reducing the expenses further. All one has to do is invest in a high-quality gigantic printing machine, and everything else will be a cakewalk. The speed of construction, by far, is the biggest advantage of 3D printing that developers will realize over time. They will be able to build hundreds of homes within a few months, resulting in a manifold increase in revenue.
Therefore, although the initial period can be challenging, the journey will be smooth, as predicted by the experts. There is no reason for the industry leaders to panic as of now. The technology, like others, will prove to be a boon ultimately.
What role have we to play in this trend?
We are undoubtedly the next big thing in additive manufacturing and its applications. Every new technology comes with its set of challenges, and 3D printing is not an exception. We are proud to be the ones who can contribute to developing scalable 3D printing solutions for the construction industry. You can exploit our experience in the field and knowledge of the technology to kick-start your additive manufacturing endeavor.
Our team can help identify the best solutions for your business and help you overcome the initial challenges that can hinder growth. We are not limited to construction, but our solutions cover everything 3D. It does not matter which industry you belong to, as we can help find a solution based on your specific business requisites. We understand that revenue generation is everyone’s priority and keep that in mind while suggesting a scalable and highly profitable 3D printing solution for your needs.
In construction, we have an extensive network of industry pioneers to help us identify your basic needs and suggest a technology that meets those. With our help, you can revolutionize your processes and adapt to advancements faster than you can imagine. Get in touch with us and realize your business prospects in this field.