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April 2018

The future of 3D print and construction

The applications for 3D printing are seemingly endless. While the technology is still viewed as being relatively new, industries have already spent significant amounts of time and money developing methods to use large-scale 3D printers in the construction process, with the long-term aim being to build houses in a matter of hours.

While the majority of 3D printers which the man on the street will be aware of are microwave-sized machines, the construction sector is focused on the bigger printers which could handle projects on an industrial scale. Rather than using a photopolymer resin commonly used in 3D printing, these larger 3D printers being used for construction purposes use other materials, mainly a concrete composite.

As we see more and more 3D printed houses being built across the world, let’s take a look at how far the technology can be used by the construction industry.

Aims

Being able to build a house overnight might sound a bit pie in the sky, the fact is that there are numerous ways in which the construction industry’s use of 3D printing could benefit society. One particular area which could benefit is that of homelessness. With the global housing crisis showing no signs of being resolved, as many as 1.6 billion people could be living in inadequate shelter by the year 2025. As we recently saw in Austin, Texas, 3D printing has already shown how a building could well be built in a matter of hours, offering a realistic solution to the homeless problem around the globe.

Benefits

There are certainly numerous benefits brought to the construction industry and society as a whole by 3D printing. From the prototype design stage to the actual building itself, 3D printing is able to handle this transition effortlessly and cut timescales drastically. The simple scaling up process is done with total precision, cutting out the risk of mistakes, as well as reducing costs, optimising use of materials and improving sustainability, not to mention the huge scope it brings in terms of freedom of shape. There is also the small factor of labour. Rather than having to clock off for the day, the robots used to build these houses are able to work throughout the night, cutting the building time significantly.

Downside

On the flipside, though, the bigger the role 3D printing has in the construction industry, the smaller the role humans have. A recent report from the McKinsey Consultancy estimates that more than 800 million workers around the world will lose their jobs to robotic technology by 2030 – many of which will be from the construction sector. There is also the fact that the construction industry’s use of technology is still very much in its infancy, meaning there could still be issues that need to be ironed out, such as safety and regulations.

Good thing or bad thing?

While this may be too early to start predicting whether 3D printing will be used on a mass scale, it’s hard to picture a future in which the technology is not used in construction. And if it fills the need for quicker and more affordable housing, the construction industry’s use of 3D printing could well end up being one of this generation’s greatest achievements.

 

To find out more about 3D printing check out our 3D Printing page, or call 01462 682 661.

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