by Carlo Padilla
For the most part, 3D printing remains a niche component of the construction industry. While the technology has been augmented extensively for the benefit of many industries including medicine, manufacturing, electronics and others, its use in construction is yet to be adopted widely because of a number of concerns, chief among which being budget and overall feasibility. In the industry, 3D printing is also referred to as Additive Manufacturing (AM).
Originally developed for product prototyping applications, development over the years has led 3D printing technology to offer many advantages in construction. Parts and components that would otherwise take a long, costly and complex manufacturing process to produce – such as those with geometrically complex shapes – take mere days using a 3D printer. Not only does the technology effectively reduce waste by only using as much raw materials as needed, it also cuts transportation costs as parts can just be printed on-site.
A construction 3D printer builds walls, for example, by depositing concrete through a nozzle layer by layer, eliminating the need for formwork and thus saving time and resources, cutting costs and requiring less manual labor. Projects undertaken by pioneers in modern 3D construction have shown that the technology can build structures from mere groundwork in a matter of days, with the automation of the process effective in reducing human errors that could cause delays.
Yingchuang Building Technique, more popularly known as Winsun, is a Chinese construction company that 3D prints small houses using a combination of concrete and recycled materials in as little as 24 hours. The company is confident that it will be possible to use the technique to build larger houses or even skyscrapers in the future.
Among the many advantages offered by 3D printing, perhaps the most significant is having exceptional freedom to design in free-form. Computer aided design (CAD) enables engineers and architects to have flexible designs actualized for use in projects. 3D concrete printing giant Saint-Gobain Weber Beamix’s marketing manager says “3D concrete printing enables you to make any shape. You can bend it, you can make angles, you can make virtually any organic shape you want to, and it’s a one-to-one copy to what you designed on paper.”