The advantages of 3D printing in construction

3D printing in construction is a very innovative way to solve some of the major problems that every business in the industry faces today. It not only helps to reduce cost and time commitments but also offers a much more sustainable alternative to other methods too. As yet, 3D printing is not used widely in construction but that is likely to change in the coming years as the benefits become obvious.

What is 3D printing in construction?

There are two ways in which 3D printing can be used in construction. The first is where printers work on-site to aid construction, stacking layers of material (e.g. cement) on top of one another to build up a structure. The other option for 3D printing in construction is where the printers are used in a factory setting to create components that can later be shipped on site. 3D printers can use a wide variety of different materials, including cement and plastics, as well as liquid metals and other components that will cool or dry to create a structure. In a construction context, a CAD or BIM programme will tell the printer what it needs to do to print and then the machine will start creating layers in accordance with this.

Where can you see this in action?

So far, there are only a few projects where this innovative technique has been used. They include an office block in Dubai, which is the world’s largest individual 3D printed building and five-storey 3D printed apartment blocks in China that cost as little as $161,000 to print. The potential for this technology has yet to be fully explored but it has a lot to offer in terms of human innovation and development.

What are the benefits of using 3D printing in construction?

  • Cutting construction waste to zero. It’s no secret that building sites can be incredibly wasteful – in the UK alone around a third of waste is generated by the construction sector. Working with 3D printing offers the opportunity to streamline operations, as a 3D printer will use only what it needs in terms of materials. There is no waste generated at any point in the process.
  • Improving timing and outcomes. 3D printers don’t need to take a break and have the potential to simply keep working 24/7 for seven days a week. This kind of labour could help to considerably improve the time it takes to complete a project, as well as standards of outcomes. It could also help many firms to avoid having to budget for low skilled labour.
  • Facilitating the complex and the unusual. Working with a 3D printer brings a whole new spectrum of versatility to any project. Each printer works by stacking layers of material, one on top of the other, which means there is a lot more scope for complex and unusual shapes and designs than can be achieved manually.

3D printers provide some obvious cost and time-saving advantages to the construction sector – as well as the potential for expanding design too.

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