Last Updated on April 12, 2022 by Admin
3D printing has been around for a while now, but it’s only recently impacted the construction industry. Find out more about how 3D printing is changing how we build – and what’s to come next!
3D printing has had a transformative impact on businesses all over the world. It lets firms produce models and prototypes quickly, allowing them to test and fine-tune new goods more quickly.
3D printing in construction is also known as additive manufacturing in construction. Construction printers can print complete buildings or only prefabricated parts of buildings.
In combination with BIM, 3D printing is a robotic process that prints the design layer by layer with advanced construction materials. It has a lot of design flexibility and doesn’t require any formwork.
Extrusion, power bonding, and additive welding are some printing technologies employed. Compared to traditional brick construction processes, 3D printing produces less waste and requires fewer labor resources.
It’s a fully automated and planned technique that reduces human error while increasing production. Many startups are developing 3D printers or providing printing services for small and large projects.
What is 3D printing in construction?
The computer-controlled sequential layering of materials to produce three-dimensional shapes is known as 3D printing. It’s very beneficial for prototyping and fabricating geometrically tricky components.
Printing construction structures layer by layer with a 3D printer. Researchers and entrepreneurs have printed bridges in metal, concrete, or polymer off-site and completed buildings in concrete or clay on-site to demonstrate the technique.
Construction 3D printing is a method for printing concrete, polymer, metal, or other materials layer by layer using a 3D printer to create construction pieces or full buildings. The most prevalent form of the printer uses a robotic arm to extrude concrete back and forth.
Powder binding and additive welding are two other 3D printing techniques. Powder binding is a method of 3D printing within a powder basin, where the powder is solidified layer by layer to construct the desired item.
History of 3D printing in construction
Charles “Chuck” Hull pioneered stereolithography (SLA), a 3D printing technology in which designers produce a 3D model that is then printed layer by layer into a solid, tangible object, in 1984. Before BIM, these models aided in the design process and helped sell and plan construction projects.
Several groups began experimenting with 3D printing to create modular components for full-scale projects in the 1990s. These applications were in full swing by the 2000s, and they were poised to alter the whole industry.
Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California introduced the Contour Crafting System in 2006, a massive 3D printer that can manufacture buildings in place. It functions similarly to a desktop 3D printer, but it prints using a crane and uses concrete as the medium to put down a building’s structural parts.
A Dutch firm (DUS Architect) built a canal house out of 3D printed plastic in Amsterdam in 2014 to demonstrate the potential for 3D printed architecture. The “Kamermaker,” which means “Room Builder,” is a gigantic crane-like printing arm used in the project. This project is still in progress.
MX3D, a Dutch 3D printing company, started printing a full-scale steel bridge in 2015, which will be erected in central Amsterdam. The bridge will be completely functional once it is finished. It’s a proof-of-concept sculpture for MX3D, a technique that makes steel buildings more cost-effective and speedier.
SOM announced a collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in January 2016 to develop highly efficient residential structures made out of a 3D printed pod and a mix of renewable solar and natural gas energy sources.
That’s the most advanced 3D printing use we’ve come across so far: 3D printing with living cells as the material. Organisms, according to reasoning, are incredibly adept at maintaining internal temperatures, remaining clean, controlling moisture and humidity, and self-repair.
Traditional construction processes occasionally use once-living materials (for example, wood), but the living cells’ abilities are destroyed.
How is 3D printing used in construction?
3D printing can be used to generate construction components or to ‘print’ entire buildings in the construction sector. Construction is a good fit for 3D printing since much of the information needed to make an object is generated during the design process, and the industry is already familiar with computer-aided manufacturing.
Building information modeling (BIM), which has recently gained traction, may make 3D printing more accessible. Creation 3D printing may allow for the faster and more precise construction of complicated or bespoke goods and lower labor costs and waste production. It may also allow construction in difficult or dangerous areas where human labor is not acceptable, such as space.
The capacity to effortlessly generate the most complicated geometric shapes is the most valuable characteristic of 3D printing. To make the structure, create the additional layers.
It will advance the course of Civil Engineering with this kind of “everything is possible” feature and the speed with which it makes them. Construction 3D printers are 3D printing equipment explicitly designed for the construction industry.
Computer-aided design (CAD) or a 3D scanner are used to build a 3D digital representation of the item.
The printer then reads the design and applies successive layers of printing medium (a liquid, powder, or sheet material) to the item, subsequently combined or fused to form the item. Although the technique is time-consuming, it allows practically any shape to be made.
Printing can generate numerous components simultaneously, use multiple materials, and employ numerous colors, depending on the technology used. A high-resolution subtractive method that removes material from an enormous printed item might improve accuracy.
Dissolvable materials are used in some processes to support overhanging elements during production. Metals can be costly to print. Therefore, printing a mold may be more cost-effective than utilizing it to make the object.
What material is used in construction 3D printing?
While 3D-printed structures can be built out of various materials, the most popular process uses a material mix of concrete, fiber, sand, and geopolymers. These raw materials are thoroughly combined in a big “hopper” before being fed into the extrusion apparatus and stacked into the appropriate shapes and patterns.
Homes made entirely of biodegradable materials, such as mud, soil, straw, and rice husks, have also been 3D printed. Soil, rice fibers from RiceHouse, and lime made up the specially created 3D printing material mix.
They thoroughly combined this material in a wet pan mill to make it homogeneous and useable. They printed a monolithic wall, completed it with a shaving clay lamina, and smoothed and oiled it with linseed oils to produce the final structure.
Typically, just the frame and walls of a building or structure may be constructed with 3D printing. Other home components, including windows and doors, the plumbing system, and the electrical system, must be installed manually.
However, 3D printing technology has progressed in recent years to the point that some plumbing and electrical fixtures can now be put in and already integrated into the home.
What are the benefits of 3D printing in construction?
The capacity to effortlessly generate the most complicated geometric shapes is the most valuable characteristic of 3D printing. To make the structure, create the additional layers. These are a few of the benefits of 3D printing in the construction industry.
A faster design process and a shorter supply chain
Using on-site 3D printing, different time-consuming processes in the design process can be eliminated. Architects, engineers, contractors, clients, and executive parties are typically involved in the building design.
Less waste and fewer logistical processes
Many parts are destroyed during transit, for starters, which might be avoided by printing on-site. Second, items must be over-engineered to withstand shipping, incurring additional expenditures. Such over-engineering would be unnecessary with on-site 3D printing.
Third, safe transportation and hoisting necessitate the addition of features to pieces, necessitating additional post-assembly work. These features would be unnecessary if 3D printing were available on-site.
Making bespoke residences more accessible to the general public
Because the cost of 3D printing concrete is independent of the shape that is manufactured, more people will
be able to purchase bespoke homes that match their needs.
Easier and more efficient pipe and electric installation
Printing hollow walls requires fewer resources, improves insulation, and may allow for the use of 3D printed canals to convey hot or cold water. Furthermore, waste reduction can be achieved without the requirement for on-site installations.
Prototyping in a Quick
The prototyping process is sped up by 3D printing, which can produce parts in hours. This allows each stage to be completed more quickly. Compared to machining prototypes, 3D printing is less expensive and faster at generating parts because the item may be completed in hours, allowing for more frequent design modifications.
Another benefit of print on demand is that, unlike traditional manufacturing techniques, it does not require a lot of room to maintain inventories. This saves both space and money because there is no need to print in volume until necessary.
Because the 3D design files are printed using a 3D model as either a CAD or STL file, they are all saved in a virtual library and can be found and printed as needed. Editing individual files instead of wasting out-of-date inventory and investing in tools allows for very low-cost design changes.
What are the disadvantages of 3D printing in construction?
These are a few disadvantages of 3D printing in construction that needs to be overcome for future growth:
While 3D printing can manufacture products out of various polymers and metals, raw material availability is limited. This is because not all metals or polymers can be thermally regulated to enable 3D printing. Furthermore, many of these printing materials cannot be recycled, and only a small percentage are safe.
Build Size Restrictions
Small print chambers in 3D printers currently limit the size of parts that may be created. Anything more significant will have to be printed in multiple parts afterward. Because the printer must produce more components before manual labor is employed to connect the parts, this can raise costs and time for more significant parts.
Although big pieces require post-processing, most 3D printed items require cleaning to remove support material from the build and smooth the surface to reach the desired finish, as indicated above. Waterjetting, sanding, a chemical soak and rinse, air or heat drying, assembling, and other post-processing techniques were utilized.
The quantity of post-processing required is determined by various factors, including the size of the component being produced, the intended application, and the type of 3D printing technique employed. As a result, while 3D printing provides for quick part production, post-processing might slow down the manufacturing process.
Unlike more traditional techniques like injection molding, where high volumes may be more cost-effective to produce, 3D printing has a fixed cost. While 3D printing has a lower initial investment than other manufacturing technologies, if scaled up to mass production numbers, the cost per unit does not decrease as much as injection molding.
Parts are created layer by layer with 3D printing (also known as Additive Manufacturing). Although these layers attach, they can delaminate when subjected to specific forces or orientations.
This issue is more severe when utilizing fused deposition modeling (FDM), and polyjet and multijet parts are likewise more brittle. In some circumstances, injection molding may be preferable since it produces homogeneous pieces that do not separate or break.
Job Cuts in the Manufacturing Sector
Another downside of 3D printing is the possible reduction in human labor, as the majority of the manufacturing is mechanized and done by printers. On the other hand, many third-world countries rely on low-wage labor to keep their economies afloat, and this technology could jeopardize these manufacturing jobs by eliminating the need for production abroad.
Inaccuracies in Design
Another issue with 3D printing is that it is directly tied to the type of machine or method utilized. Certain printers have lower tolerances, resulting in finished products that are not identical to the original design. This can be corrected in post-production, but keep in mind that this will add to the overall production time and expense.
People will be able to produce fraudulent and counterfeit things more efficiently as 3D printing becomes more widespread and accessible, and it will be nearly difficult to tell the difference. This has obvious implications for copyright as well as quality control.
What are the challenges of 3D printing in construction?
While 3D printing offers many advantages to civil engineers, it also poses some difficulties. Engineers may face challenges relating to structural livability, material integrity, and equipment restrictions, to name a few.
Inhabitability of the Structure
One long-standing fear about 3D-printed buildings is that the technology isn’t adequate to make them habitable on their own. While 3D printers can create walls and frames, they have historically fallen short of necessities like running water and power, not HVAC work.
In recent years, 3D printing technology has progressed, with new methods for printing specific basic electrical and plumbing components being developed. Engineers can also design homes to easily upgrade the basic 3D-printed constructions with pipes, wiring, and ducts.
An even more critical disadvantage is that, when tested, 3D-printed constructions are frequently shown to be less strong and durable than more traditional ones. This is because the materials used in 3D-printed structures tend to degrade and lose structural integrity.
Engineers have been developing novel material solutions that can endure rigorous testing and meet all applicable building safety requirements for a long time. Many breakthroughs have already been achieved in this area, including the refinement of current concrete and polymer mixes and the incorporation biodegradable ingredients.
Limitations of Equipment
It’s also worth noting that, while 3D printers have come a long way, they still have their limitations. While one of the big promises of 3D printers is that they can accomplish the work of multiple machines at once, the fact is that many of them have limitations. This means they can construct enormous structures but not necessarily complicated or detailed ones.
One of the most important tasks in the 3D printing industry today is to develop new construction methods that are both efficient and low-cost while also allowing for greater precision and functionality.
Future of 3D printing in construction
The hurdles that 3D printing in buildings is currently facing are all usual when a new technology emerges—and they’re all likely to be overcome over time.
As 3D printing becomes more prevalent, equipment costs will decrease, more people will be trained to use the technology, and manufacturers will create strategies to minimize potential errors. The advantages of 3D printing in construction will eventually outweigh the drawbacks.
With many high-ROI applications emerging, this technology is set to transform how construction businesses approach projects. The market for 3D concrete printing (3DCP), for example, is already growing significantly. Instead of pouring concrete into traditional molds, 3DCP uses a computerized technique to layer materials, saving time and effort while improving the end product’s quality and precision.
Traditional construction processes are frequently wasteful, time-consuming, expensive, and toxic to the environment, and the construction sector continues to face severe issues. Civil Engineers can use the precision, speed, and reliability of 3D printing to solve various difficulties, potentially making designing and building habitable structures easier and more economical than ever before.