The past year has seen 3D printing go from abstract technology of the future to a near ubiquitous staple of almost every industry. The construction industry, despite its general reluctance towards technology, is no exception, and the impact 3D printing has had on construction can be tracked through a series of industry firsts, breakthroughs, and innovations. Here’s a look at the most exceptional ways 3D printing has changed construction for good.
- WinSun: Since the start of the year (and even before that), WinSun has been making headlines as a first in 3D printing greatness by applying the technology to the construction of houses. And in January 2015, the Chinese company set a record when they 3D printed an entire mansion and one of the first multi-level apartment buildings.
- Contour Crafting: Another industry first, Contour Crafting technology (although still in development) rests on the principle of 3D printing out entire homes at once, including things like pre-installed plumbing and other things of that sort. Typically, homes are printed off-site, in pieces, but Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, creator of the technology, promises that Contour Crafting will deliver entire homes onsite. And what’s better? The print time is less than 24 hours.
- Zuoda Group: One out of many innovative 3D printing companies to come out of China, Zuoda Group has made headlines in construction for the sheer fact that their assembly time is nearly unparalleled. Just this past August the company assembled a two story villa in less than three hours. If that’s not impressive enough, the villa was comprised of a bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen.
- The UAE: The United Arab Emirates has been a long time proponent of 3D printing technology in construction, having just recently announced their plans for a multi-million dollar project called “Museum of the Future,” where the country plans to 3D print the entire exterior of a circular museum. Now, the UAE’s prime minister is setting his sights on 3D printing an office, including all of the furniture inside of it.
- The Lewis Grand Hotel: As the most recent addition to the world of 3D printing in construction, the Lewis Grand Hotel is the architectural and technological conception of Lewis Yakich, owner and graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB). With a history in material science engineering, Yakich crafted and engineered a 3D printer that built a 2 bedroom villa in just two hours in the Philippines. It’s rumored that the printer is even stronger than conventional methods of construction that use hollow blocks.
How Will 3D Printing Change Construction?
Undeniably, 3D printing isn’t just going to change construction, it already has. And while some may fear, eventually, it could be for the worse, many companies are seeing that technology isn’t as scary as it seems. In fact, many construction companies are already yielding positive benefits from the technology. Here’s just four ways construction has changed the industry for the better:
- Less Time- One of the biggest advantages of 3D printing is undoubtedly time, with reports coming out estimating print and assembly times at 100 hours, 3 hours, and even 24 hours and less, the world of construction as we know it will never be the same. Homes that previously took time and effort to build are now being, quite literally, pumped out through a nozzle in record time, altering the face of the construction industry for good.
- Less Materials- The world’s biggest 3D printer was just unveiled last Friday in Lombarda, Italy. And while its size alone was impressive, it boasted the ability to print using only local materials (like clay). With more and more 3D printers extruding and printing with organic materials not commonly used in traditional construction, the need for expensive materials is, and will continue, to decrease.
- Less Labor- Although 3D printing still requires a workforce to be present onsite to operate nozzles and machinery, the amount of actual labor needed is a completely different ballgame. What could have taken an entire team of construction workers to complete can now be done with relatively few workers and most likely in half the time. In the world of 3D printing in construction, the biggest laborer onsight is going to be the printer itself.
- Less Money- None of the above points would mean much of anything if they didn’t translate into some type of dollar signs, and in this case, they all translate into positive dollars signs. With less time spent on the jobsite, less materials wasted during construction, and fewer employees needed to be paid for their work, the construction site is slowly working its way towards lucrative prospects. And it has 3D printing to thank.
While 3D printing has yet to become the standard for all construction companies, it’s already here, and it certainly appears as though it’s here to stay. Aside from saving time, money, labor, etc., it’s also acted as a viable solution to providing housing in low-income areas at a fraction of what it would have cost without using 3D printing technology. So while the technology may be new to the industry, it’s impact is undeniable and its future seems guaranteed.