Although a year isn’t an exceedingly long time period, growth in 3D printing within construction always seems to develop tenfold. For the past two years I’ve taken a glimpse at some of the developments and each time there seems to be a world of difference.
One striking area this provides improvement towards is within design modeling/finished product alignment. Plans can be optimized to the highest cost efficiency and raw material exactness—all in less time. Since 3D applications only require minimal assembly after the materials are printed, there is a fraction of the time needed.
Dubai led the charge in debuting the world’s first 3D printed building, completed with all the modern amenities we’d anticipate from a traditional construction process. For the architects and design engineers who created the concept rendering; it was satisfying to compare the computerized rendering to a perfectly constructed reality. The amenities are not only modern, but also environmentally efficient. The water, electric, window treatments, air conditioning and telecommunications systems all have energy saving enhancements.
To make the 3D designs, the first step in the construction process begins with the printer itself. Of course, for industry use it goes beyond the standard type used in an office setting. Now, for construction scale buildings, the renderings are generated on supersize printers. For example, the one used in the 3D model building the printer’s dimensions were, 40’W x 120’L x 20’H.
Since I last wrote on the topic, there was a slight lag in the regulations and legal support for this building method. The new standards simply mean that construction must keep pace with the need for safe structures. Although the delay in onboarding is sometimes frustrating, the regulations are not imposed to make obstacles for the industry. Basically, they serve to ensure the safety of the general public, because of projects such as the 3D printed planned low-cost housing that is scheduled to begin in California.
As of today, US building codes don’t have this option built in, however as the global market embraces the option going forward, there is a pretty strong opportunity for the US to follow suit.
The National Magazine points out, “More widespread use of the technique across the world may initially be held back by building codes and regulations that lag behind technological change – after all, most countries don’t allow you to just erect a building however you want. Last September saw the “Bod” (Building On Demand) put up in Copenhagen, the first to comply with EU building regulations, and Guglielmo Carra from engineering company Arup, believes that the rule books will change as the technology consolidates. ‘Some building codes don’t specifically allow the use of 3D printing,’ he says. ‘But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It does mean, however, that you have to go through a longer approval process.’
El Salvador is one country that is offering its approval. Icon has announced that it has partnered with a homelessness charity, New Story, to construct a development of 100 of its 3D printed homes there next year. By that point Icon hopes to have brought the unit cost of each house down to just $4,000. It almost seems too good to be true but of course rolling out new technology at such a scale is not without its problems.”
Regardless of what the future holds, the thought of this opportunity is exciting to construction firms looking to stay on the cutting edge.