construction technologyThe world is going digital, and the next frontier to be breached is the third dimension!

2016 could well be called the year of 3D – 3D televisions have gone mainstream already, and now you can even get your very own 3D printer, courtesy companies like Makerbot, that are striving to make commercial 3D printers a reality.

3D printing has been used so far to print items ranging from a shoe, to human organs, to a car. But the coolest new advancement on the 3D printing horizon will convince you that the future is here: you can now print no less than a house!

That’s right: from being a dusty old machine lying in the corner of most offices, a printer is now the hottest new gadget! From printing houses to prosthetic limbs to spare parts, a printer can now do everything manufacturing companies can, and often better.

The technology behind 3D printing has begun to find its way into the construction industry. Architects and contractors, all over the world, are now contemplating printing entire apartments or villas, rendering long-winded and laborious construction processes, quick and easy.

With lower production costs, greener operations, faster turnaround time and cutting technology, the use of 3D printing in construction technology, is about as important an invention as the wheel!

Given the ease and speed with which 3D printing works, it has the potential to improve productivity in commercial construction technology, by a huge margin.

So, how exactly does 3D printing work?

It’s just like building a house: brick by brick! 3D printers manufacture objects by laying down layers upon layers of the target material, until the object is created.

Also known as additive manufacturing, this process has been demonstrated many times over, and has helped in printing paper clips, artificial limbs, and even food.

Another important tool 3D printing uses, is contour crafting, a process which uses a rapid prototype to potentially reduce energy use and emissions. USC Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis explains, “Contour Crafting technology has great potential for automating the construction of whole structures as well as sub-components.”

While it may seem largely like magic, 3D printing simply applies the core principles of ordinary ink-printing, to include the third dimension.

Why is 3D printing seen as such a breakthrough for construction technology?

The brand new technology used in construction, employs super-sized printers, using a particular composite and concrete mixture, that is thicker than regular concrete, sets faster and is self-supporting.

The absence of design limitations in 3D printing, as opposed to old-school construction techniques, means that we could soon be looking at printing ten or even more houses, in a day, at minimal cost!

The bad news is that 3D-printing technology is prohibitively expensive, and printers not at all easily available. This could mean that we are still far from inhabiting a future where every residential building is 3D printed.

The good news, however, is that 3D printing isn’t the only recent technological advancement, in the construction industry. The usage of drones, that give a bird’s eye view of the construction site, supplementing it with regular reports, has hugely sped up the logistics of construction.

Creating progress reports and offering real-time updates on the construction progress, and changes required, drones supplement the usage of 3D printing, speeding it up and making the process more seamless.

While the applications of 3D printing are far and varied, the construction industry, in particular, is on its way to being utterly revolutionized, with the advent of 3D technology. From painstakingly building a house in months, or maybe years, contractors could now be looking at instantly printable model-homes, that could be ready in minutes!

Daghan Cam, co-founder and chief executive officer of AI Build, says, “The beauty of 3D printing is that it makes almost any design applicable and possible. We want to take this technology and the great advantage it provides into construction.”

Some of the innumerable advantages of using 3D printing in construction technology include:

  • Affordable housing for everyone
  • Low labor costs
  • Reduction in construction material wastage
  • Decrease in raw-material expenses
  • Improved production time

With 3D printing in construction, we could be looking at improved affordability, reduced usage of materials, safer construction and massively reduced labor costs.

“Housing is one of the most costly expenses of our lives. 3D printing will dramatically reduce the cost of housing, and increase the speed of construction. 3D printing-driven innovation in construction will empower people by creating more disposable income for homeowners, and generally improve the quality of our lives.” – Hermes Moore.

The wonders of 3D printing never cease. Here are some astonishing advancements companies using 3D printing in construction have made.

  • A Chinese company, Winsun has claimed to have created ten 3D printed houses in a single day, each at the cost of $5000 only. CNET reports that Winsun managed a decrease of about 30 to 60 percent in construction wastes, reducing production time by 50 to 70 percent.
  • Finnish startup FIMAtec is all set to launch its prototype 3D printer to construct buildings. FIMAtec has, so far, succeeded in building wooden walls, insulation, and reinforcement and installation of electrical wiring between concrete cladding and insulation, all using 3D printing.
  • The United Arab Emirates National Innovation Committee has announced its plans for the world’s first 3D printed office, in Dubai.
  • A Chattanooga, Tennessee-based startup, Branch Technology, is set to become the first company to successfully construct building walls at scale. They will be using the world’s largest free-form 3D printer.

The advances in 3D printing may be astonishingly rapid, and many, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of shortage of skilled labor in construction. We still require up and coming talent in the construction industry to reduce instances of human error in planning and executing construction projects.

However, 3D printing is definitely paving the path to the future.

With greener and more cost-effective construction technology, 3D printing brings promising opportunities and exciting horizons to the construction industry.

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