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3D Printing & Construction

Construction and architecture are interesting propositions for 3D printing. There’s a lot in the news at the moment and the involvement of Additive Manufacturing ranges from an entire community of homes to 3D printed materials for construction to a vast new 3D printed building in Dubai.

Here’s our round-up.

The first set of low-cost homes for low-income families has been 3D printed in Tabasco, Mexico, spear-headed by not-for-profit organisation, New Story, in collaboration with Texas-based construction technology company, ICON. New Story researches technological breakthroughs in home-building, hoping to tackle the global housing crisis and has identified 3D printing as a viable solution.

“3D printing allows New Story to reach more families faster, while simultaneously improving quality and design flexibility.” says Anas Essop in 3D Printing News.

Of course, when it comes to buildings, speed is dependent on much more than the physical act of construction. For this scheme, it was the planning and red tape that took the time (18 months in total), but once construction began, each house was completed in just 24 hours of print time. That’s pretty amazing. 3D printing offers other advantages too:

“With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability.” Jason Ballard, Co-founder, ICON

It’s a really interesting and well-thought-through concept. Read more about it here, in 3D Printing Industry’s article.

This mesh-covered pavilion featured in Dezeen uses 3D technology in a different way. Fifty-four 3D printed steel nodes connect the 200 rods that together, deliver the pavilion’s unusual tetrahedral design and facilitate its remarkably quick assembly. Despite its fragile, delicate appearance, it can withstand loads up to sixteen times it’s weight. It was developed by AIRLAB, the Architectural Intelligence Research Lab at Singapore University of Technology and Design.

"As 3D printing technologies are maturing to match the mechanical, scale and speed requirements of construction, systematic research regarding applications and technologies becomes essential," AIRLAB

3D printing is perfect for delivering bespoke, individual components such as nodes, especially when prototypes for irregularly shaped structures call for numerous subtle - or not so subtle – variations in component design.

Then there’s this (justifiably dramatic?) headline:

"This building in Dubai is the largest 3D-printed structure in the world — and it took just 3 workers and a printer to build it." Business Insider

Dubai has big plans when it comes to 3D printing and construction, according to this article in Business Insider, aiming to have a quarter of all buildings built with 3D printing technology by 2030. This office building actually employs some traditional methods, using conventional concrete foundations, reinforcing the structure with rebar as well as additional concrete, and using pre-cast slabs for the floors. The scale is impressive, though and saw robotic construction company, Apis Cor, develop a gypsum-based material specifically for the printing. And at 9.5 metres, the building is two stories. You can watch a video of the construction, here. As for how long it will remain the the world's largest 3D printed structure, well, we won't be holding our breath.

Back to homes and you may have come across this house in Techradar. Printed by SQ4D, it claims to be the ‘largest permitted 3D-printed home in the world.’ At 1,900 square feet, incredibly, it was printed in just 48 hours, although this was admittedly spread across eight days. SQ4D used their Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS) which after recent tech enhancements, they claim, will be able to reduce the print time for future projects by half. Their ARCS system can also construct foundations, utility conduits, and interior as well as exterior walls.

All these projects demonstrate three key advantages of 3D printing construction methods over the traditional:

Speed. Reduced labour. Less waste.

And it all adds up to major progress.

If you have a project we can help with, please get in touch!