SHANGHAI – In many industries Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) is creating breakthroughs. Take for example the medical field, where developments are known of the creation of 3D printed organs which will save countless of lives.
When this technology was first time applied in the construction field, many benefits were found, such as increased speed of building, reduction of cost, environmental benefits and significant saving of materials. 3D construction printing was born. When we are talking about 3D construction printing, a method in which construction materials are joined or solidified under computer control to create a 3D objects, we commonly speak about “Concrete printers” that are printing concrete buildings. This development is currently known for a few years and it holds many promises for the near future. The first walls were printed in China in 2008 and in 2014 the first 3D printed residential housing project was installed.
3D Printing has the following benefits:
- Saves time: 3D printing increases the speed of construction significantly. Printing houses is much faster than building them the conventional way. A concrete printer can reach speed up to 150-200 m2 wallsurface in 24 hours. Which allows you to print a small or medium size bungalow in a day. Also there is no waiting time for specific schaffolding or formworks or molds.
Freedom of Design and Patterns: the possiblities with 3D Construction printing are endless. Printers can produce complex geometry that alternative machinery or injection molding may struggle with or simply are not be able to make it. For example, it has the ability to develop architecture that is non-rectilinear in shape.
- Saves materials: 3D printing allows for significant material savings in comparison with conventional way of construction, because of:
- the quantity that you estimate is the quantity that you will need to print, there is no need to buy extra stock to ensure you have enough materials to finish the project;
- eliminates rework due to human errors in construction, thereby increasing the accuracy, quality, and reliability of the building structure;
- upcoming trend is that you can put in recycled materials, which are cheaper (or free);
- the strenght of printing a partly hollow wall in a certain pattern (ie woven, zig zag, H structure) enables you to print walls that are stronger (better Concrete compressive strength) than solid concrete walls, with less material usage;
- by printing a simplified design, you may be able to replace and assembly 2 or more components with just a single 3D printed component.
- Better insulation possilibities: the newly 3D printed houses have enough space for insulation materials. By improving the insulation, the buildings have good ability to resist heat flow. This energy efficiency feature will also provide more comfort and additional value to homes and buildings. There is also the option to place electrical or communication systems into the wall structures.
- Printing on Demand: the technology allows you to manage your projects according Just-In-Time principle, by printing customized designs and proof of concepts according to your demand. It prevents you from keeping Inventory which can take up a lot of space, especially if you’re not using the part as often as intended. It often allows you for last-minute changes as well.
- Low envionmental impact: when you are printing on a site, it means that you have a dustfree constuction environment, which has a much better working environment and has a lower environmental impact than the conventional way of construction has. It eliminates wastage and helps to reduce cost to clearing the site of debris from waste after construction.
Saves heavy labour: Reduces the number of heavy labour workmen needed during construction, such as service personnel and heavy labour costs. This is reducing the number of FTE needed for basic construction works. However, alternative jobs are created and the speed of construction allows for more work in the same time for those that need to design, install electric and draining system, decorate the house, etc. The speeds allows for more and new jobs. This also reduces the number of risks and accidents and hospitalization in heavy construction work.
- Cost reduction: Due to all these advantages in terms of saving materials, logistics and labor, the cost of construction is reduced significantly. This will impact the construction costs and the final sales price of houses or buildings in the near future.
Despite the large number of advantages, this new technology also comes with it’s fair share of challenges:
- Standardization of Construction: Winsun (Yingchuang Building Techniques Shanghai is currently developing international and local construction standards (see: Standardization of 3D print materials (Ink) and 3D Print product standards) for 3D construction printed items, together with the Chinese Shanghai Academy of Building Research (SRIBS). This development is important to make sure the 3D printed structures are reliable, safe, and durable.
- Investment: the initial investment of 3D Concrete printers is currently at a level that it requires capital and a decent construction project to start. Therefore it’s mainly possible for the medium and larger building companies to aquire one. The trend is that prices for concrete printers will go down in the future as the technology and the market evolves.
Copyright Issues: As 3D printing is very popular, it will enable people to build designs without paying the royalties the the original designers. The difference between real and fake 3D printed furniture or art object won’t be visible.
- Limitations to print materials (Ink): however most suitable materials, such as concrete and other earthen materials to build a concrete structure, are capable to put into the printer, there are still limitations on the materials that can be put in. There are still materials that 3D Construction printers are not yet versatile enough for to work with.
This sums up most of the known pros and cons of 3D Construction Printing. Much of Research & Development was done from the very first moment the first walls were printed, and since than this invention continues to grow and develop. If you see opportunities to implement this technology than we recommend to contact us and discuss it for your construction project.