Applications of 3D Printing in the Construction Industry
3D printing has already proven to be a disruptive force in the manufacturing industry, but is it possible for its influence to extend to other industries as well? After all, the very principle of 3D printing is a novel way of delivering and building materials that are commonly used in standard manufacturing.
Through the years, there have been several attempts to make use of 3D printing technology for construction. These efforts ranged from 3D printing building components to constructing an entire house using giant 3D printers. What is the potential of this technology and how does 3D printing benefit the construction industry?
A history of 3D printing used in construction
Early efforts to integrate 3D printing concepts with construction started in the mid-1990s. It was around this time that the University of Southern California developed the Contour Crafting building technology. This technique made use of ceramic extrusion through a computer-controlled crane to overcome the size limits of 3D printing technologies that were available at that time.
By the 2000s, a good number of companies have started to show interest in developing 3D printing techniques for construction. Diversification of the technology also started during this decade. In 2005, Enrico Dini from Italy patented the D-shape 3D printer which spreads a layer of fine sand and a binding agent, similar to how Jet Fusion 3D printing works.
In 2008, a research team from Loughborough University in the UK developed one of the first few 3D printing techniques that used concrete as a building material. With computer control, the process uses a gantry and robotic arm to lay down successive layers of concrete based on a CAD model . By 2015, Loughborough University has signed a deal with Skanska to start development of a commercial-scale concrete 3D printer.
The concept of 3D printing seems to have taken off in the last ten years with projects as ambitious as 3D printing an entire skyscraper in Dubai. We have also seen demonstrations of actual houses being built via 3D printing. The 3D Print Canal House in Amsterdam has the distinction of being the first 3D printed house and was created using the Kamermaker, which was a Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) that is about six meters tall.
In Spain, a company called 3DBRIDGE created the first 3D printed pedestrian bridge. The bridge measures 12 meters by 1.75 meters and was created by a D-Shape printer using micro-reinforced concrete. The design freedom afforded by 3D printing made it possible for the materials to be distributed in a manner that maximized structural performance.
Demonstration projects for the use of 3D printing have popped up in several places across the world including China, Netherlands, and Dubai. In 2018, the first 3D printed permanent building was created in Copenhagen. It was the first of its kind because it was constructed with all permits in place and...