3D-Printing in Construction: Major Breakthroughs and Benefits

The first 3D-printed building in Europe was recently completed, demonstrating the efficiency of 3D-printed construction. Printing the structure – referred to as the Building on Demand (BOD) – took less than 3 months!! The walls themselves took only 50 hours to print on-site in Copenhagen, Denmark. Now that is quick work!! Anticipated to be used for office or hotel space, the BOD is impressive in its own right, but also demonstrates the industry’s slow but certain turn towards 3D-printing for construction. That’s why today we’re looking at 3D-Printing in Construction: Breakthroughs and Benefits!!

Let’s start by checking out a few more amazing 3D-printed construction projects:

  • In 2016, Dubai debuted the world’s very first 3D-printed office building, a 2,000-square-foot project in which even the furniture was 3D-printed. Using a 20-foot-high, 120-foot-long, 40-foot-wide 3D printer with a robotic arm, the building was constructed in an astonishing 17 days.
  • The beginning of 2017 saw the unveiling of a 3D-printed, 400-square-foot house in Russia. With the printer providing the structure’s walls, partitions, and building envelope, and workers installing roofing materials, wiring, and insulation, the whole initiative took 24 hours to complete, including a fresh coat of paint.
  • More recently at CONEXPO, a research team from Tennessee – along with other groups – successfully used 3D-printing technology to manufacture the the cab, hydraulic oil reservoir​, steel boom, heat exchanger, and cooling system of a full-sized, working excavator.
  • And in October of 2017, a Netherlands university team printed a 26-foot-long bridge using 800 layers of reinforced concrete over a period of only 3 months.

There is definitely a boom occuring; sales of 3D-printers are expected to reach $14.6 billion by 2019 and sales of 3D-printing concrete are set to grow to $56.4 million by 2021. Why is 3D-printing is exploding across the construction industry? Sunconomy, one of the companies involved in producing the 3D-printed house in Russia, names a number of benefits to 3D-printing:

  • Affordability (materials cost less, and there’s less waste)
  • Speed of production
  • Strength (can resist winds up to 220mph)
  • Sustainability through use of natural materials
  • Lower insurance costs.

These advantages to 3D-printing are generally beneficial to builders, but are also especially helpful when providing affordable housing to the poor or homeless, or responding to emergency situations, such as providing shelter for natural disaster victims or refugees.

And yes, 3D-printers can help builders compensate for the ongoing skilled labor shortage, but these machines don’t necessarily mean a loss of jobs for construction workers. Skilled laborers at 3D-printed sites are still required for much of the detail work, as well as installing roofing, windows, insulation, wiring, plumbing, painting, and many other tasks. And of course, now we’ll also need employees to program, operate, and repair the 3D-printers!!

What do you think about 3D-printed construction?? Do you think you’ll ever see a 3D-printer at your job-site?? Let us know in the comments below!!

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