I’ve understood 3D printing to be an asset in countless trades, but never learned of any applications in construction until now. The concept of printing a building seems ambitious to me, but there are now large scale machines that can handle this super-size output. With a unique mixture of a thicker concrete-like substance, the buildings produced are self-supporting and are made to the exact specifications programmed into the machine. Thanks to a Global Construction article covering some high hopes and potential implications, I’ve been introduced to the methodology’s future in reshaping the construction world you’ve come to know.
One key highlight are the cost efficiencies seen from this innovation. They’re huge—not just from reducing building materials and commercial budget slashing, but also for residential housing costs and how that can potentially shape mortgage/borrowing rate forces from less investors requiring a loan. The article I came across from Global Construction pointed out that a company in China, Winsun, has already taken off with this technology. In one day, they built 10 buildings at a cost of $5,000 each—let that sink in.
“In addition to making housing more affordable, many architects also hope that 3D printing will increase their ability to customize homes and buildings. Earlier this year, Winsun took its 3D printing construction beyond single houses, building a five-story apartment building and an 11,840-square-foot villa. Winston used a large 3D printer that fabricates the building parts in large pieces at the company’s facility. Winston then assembled the pieces on-site adding steel reinforcements and insulation.” Imagine the output potential on the commercial end if this were implemented for GCs serving business store fronts.
With all the modernization that happens in every technology, some people argue that all humans can be replaced by robots one day. In this application, I foresee the level of craftsmanship being enhanced, as the more straight-forward structural plans can be implemented by the printer, and more time is allowed for hands-on work with intricate design that a printer couldn’t handle.
There are tremendous goals being put in place by scholars and researchers who support the practice of 3D printing in construction. Some support extensions of the printing technology to develop even larger machines that can complete a large building in a single run with all its conduits and features complete. Imagine what a printer jam would look like in this case!
Regardless of the road ahead, the innovations being discussed are exciting and offer some pretty substantial benefits. Whether they revolutionize or offer some minor cost reduction, construction professionals all over are eager to see what the future may hold.
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