3D printing, or AM (additive manufacturing), is the process used to build an object, layer by layer from 3D model data. It started out as a way to speed up the prototype building process, but now is being used to produce completed products as well. 3D printing’s future in construction is looking up.
The recent technology growth in the construction industry that is specifically designed to work with contractors and company are helping to give new life in an area that hasn’t had much growth in almost 100 years. With 3D printing being used, more change is sure to come.
A traditional method of 3D printing uses liquid plastic to selective lasers and uses those lasers to fuse together fine powder from materials such as: nylon, ceramics, glass, aluminum, steel or silver.
AM, for the most part, has been used to make prototypes, but recently 3D printing has been making things such as artificial hip joints and other fantastic things in both the medical field and in aviation. AM sales reached upwards of $3 billion a couple years ago and is estimated to be more than $10 billion by the year 2020. The construction industry has a lot to learn about 3D printing, and could take it’s cues from medical, aerospace and automobile industries who are doing so well with it.
The construction industry stands to not only reduce costs with 3D printing, it will improve quality and flexibility. The challenge for the industry is finding machines that are large enough for what they need.
A university in the United Kingdom, Loughborough, has developed a large-scale process for making building parts. They have recently make 3DCP, which is an additive manufacturing process that is able to make full-scale parts for construction and architecture. They are also working on reinforcement techniques, material science and robotics.
In the United States, Chattanooga-based, Branch Technology has been working on something called Cellular Fabrication (C-Fab). They make forms that are filled with construction materials that are extremely economic.
C-Fab uses a patented free form 3D printing process that doesn’t have to adhere to the layer-by-layer model that is the traditional form of AM. Branch Technology CEO and founder, Platt Boyd, describes the way they do 3D more like nature, and in the mean time eliminating all of the waste the construction industry has to deal with. It also lets architects design buildings in shapes that would cost way to much if they followed the construction techniques that have always been used.
While 3D printing may not be prevalent now, it will not be long that it will be all over the construction industry.
3D printing’s future in construction and architecture is about to take off. Architects will enjoy design flexibility, contractors will lower their labor and materials costs, and it will all be done in an environmentally safe way, which is something we all wan
3D Printing’s $10,000 Challenge
Branch Technology is developing load-bearing and exterior walls. They’ve even created a competition for building a complete 3D printed house. The winning designer will receive $10,000 and get to see Branch transform their dream into reality. You can get more information on the competition on their website.