3D printing is rapidly growing in popularity throughout many industries. This doesn’t come as a surprise, as 80% of enterprises say 3D printing is enabling them to innovate faster. This advanced technology can print almost anything; from Christmas ornaments to prosthetic limbs. Specifically in construction, 3D printing is a hot topic of discussion amongst construction innovators and visionaries. There are many things that 3D printing can bring to the table that will improve the construction industry.
One benefit of 3D printing is reduced waste when it comes to construction materials. 3D printing can be much more environmentally friendly than traditional methods. It uses very little energy, and will only produce 30% of the normal waste generated by an average construction project. That’s because components are printed on demand, and any materials that aren’t used can be used for future projects. As the construction industry makes strides towards green building, 3D printing is an important tool that could support those industry goals.
One of the biggest challenges in the construction industry right now is finding labour. That could be resolved by 3D printing, which reduces labour requirements. Since a lot of the work can be done autonomously by the printer, the requirement for large crews to do manual labour is reduced. This is a game changer, as the construction industry is facing a major labour shortage. However, this doesn’t mean that all construction jobs go out the window! By involving 3D printers in in the building process, new jobs are being created, such as technicians, designers, etc. The industry is changing, and this fits together perfectly with the changing dynamic of the workforce. This technological advancement aligns with what Gen Z workers are looking for, too. Read more about that here on our blog.
In British Columbia, an inventor claims he can 3D print the shell of a 4-bedroom home in 24 hrs for 10% of the usual cost. Developers would be able to design and print a home in just a few short days. The inventor, Dr. Paul Tinari, demonstrated the device in Burnaby last year. Traditionally, 3D printers use acrylic to print the chosen design. Tinari created a printer that was not only larger than the average sized 3D printer, but that has the ability to use concrete as the material of choice. The concrete is a special mix of materials that helps it stretch and accelerates the overall drying time between layers.
Tinari suggests 3D printers should be used to build low-income housing. This is the perfect application, since it will be low cost due to the reduction in labour and materials. Low-income families will be able to have a new home in a matter of days, getting them sheltered faster, and for a lower price to the municipality. As well as low-income housing, buildings like this would be ideal in disaster situations around the world, where there is a need to build new shelters quickly for those who have lost their homes.
Dr. Tinari noticed that techniques for building have remained largely unchanged since Roman times. This is where the need for new techniques arises. However, this new technique brings a series of challenges when it comes to accelerating projects that are using 3D printers.
In many regions, building codes and regulations have not yet been updated to account for 3D printing in construction. The structures have not been widely tested, which is delaying the permits to start new projects. For 3D printing to truly become a viable option for the building industry, building codes and tests must be developed to test the longevity, stability and efficiency of 3D printed construction. Although they are in the works in some places, it may be some time before we start to see 3D printed homes popping up.
Another potential problem lies in the building materials. At this time, we are very limited in the available materials that can be used with a 3D printer. Right now, the only options for materials are concrete and plastic. This reduces the options for building design until new innovations are developed.
Although there are some issues with 3D printing in construction, they are things that can likely be resolved with further discovery and innovation of the technology. When it comes to technology, developments can happen quickly, and often exceed what we believe is possible! What seems likely is that 3D printing will be the beginning of quick and cost-efficient homes for those in need. It could have an even larger impact than we imagine, potentially inspiring new home design styles and new standards for building.
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