3D printing has been a major issue for the past decade – and for good reason. Although originally designed for product prototyping purposes, 3D printing technology has reached a point where it has emerged as a key player in various industries. While obviously, 3D printing technology has proved to be beneficial in the medical, aerospace, and tool-making sectors since its inception, there is another area that may be ready to break out: the construction industry.
With 3D printers now able to print building walls and process cement, technology can help reshape construction the way we know it. But is 3D printing in construction just a passing fad or a real dynamic as a technology that can serve as an important long-term solution? Below, we will examine how 3D is already making waves in construction and what the future holds.
History of 3D Printing in Construction
Before we dive into the history of 3D printing in the construction industry, it is important to first take a step back to the origins of 3D printing itself.
The roots of 3D printing date back to the mid-1980s when stereo lithography, or SLA, was introduced. The SLA acts as a very strong laser and converts the liquid layer into a solid substance. SLA is a complementary technology, which means that it involves creating a product from the bottom up in a layer-by-layer manner. Today, the SLA is still one of the most popular 3D printing technologies, although 3D printing is generally regarded as any technology that creates components in a complementary way. Other popular additional technologies include selective laser sintering (SLS), fused deposition modeling (FDM) and direct metal deposition (DMD).
3D printing was originally used to create prototype components quickly and accurately. However, as the add-on processes progressed, its effective use began to increase. Prior to the adoption of the Real Estate Information System (BIM), 3D printing was even used in building firms to create scale models. It was not long before it was given the selfish construction goals.
For more than a decade, 3D printing has been used in prominence and construction projects, including:
In 2004, a USC professor attempted to print 3D wall at what was widely accepted as the first technology entry into construction.
In 2014, a full trench house built using 3D printing was completed in Amsterdam.
In 2016, a 3D printed mansion was completed in China.
And in 2016, the Dubai Future Foundation built its Office of the Future with 3D printing, a major technological milestone in the commercial construction industry. The fully functional 2,700-square foot building is comprised of a large 3D printer measuring 120 x 40 x 20 feet. The construction took only 17 days.
Today, the 3D printing construction market is growing rapidly, expected to reach $ 1.5 billion by 2024.
Growth of 3D Printing in Construction
While the advent of 3D printing in the construction industry continues, some aspects of construction are ready for more growth than others.
3D Print Concrete
Concrete, in particular, is one of them. In fact, the 3D concrete printing market is expected to have a net worth of $ 56.4 million by 2021, a growth strongly driven by the number of new projects planned for construction. 3D printing on concrete doesn’t just seem like a ground movement, either. In February 2017, Vinci, one of France’s leading construction companies, purchased a stake in XtreeE, a start-up French company focusing on 3D concrete building materials.
In 2019, BAM opened the first European concrete printing press in the Netherlands. The industry has already been commissioned to deliver several 3D printed bridges across the region.
Although 3D printing concrete shows great potential, it is important to note that the technology as a whole when it comes to concrete materials is still related to their youth. In fact, many 3D concrete processors are still being tested and refined today, and they are not intended for production purposes. There is a lot of potential to build everything from foundations to walls to individual blocks to bridges in a faster, more affordable, and more environmentally friendly way as technology continues to evolve.
Benefits of 3D Printing on Design
Why is 3D printing so beneficial in the construction industry? As the industry faces increasing pressure to meet a tight schedule and budget, companies are looking for new innovations to help fill the gaps. 3D printing in construction provides significant capabilities to increase efficiency in the construction industry, including the following methods.