Using 3D printing to construct homes or commercial buildings are starting to become a real possibility and are the talk of the town in the AEC industry. The concept of 3D printing has been around for decades and has had its fair share of ups and downs but seems to be gaining hype once again. Structures using 3D printing are built with super-sized printers using special cement mixtures that are thicker than concrete so there is no need for support beams. The self-supporting characteristic of 3D printing opens up a whole new realm of possibilities that just are not available with traditional construction methods.
3D printed buildings can easily lay structures using curvilinear forms instead of typical rectilinear forms which makes them a lot more durable. Structures walls are normally hollowed out to allow for utility lines to pass-through and reduce the amount of materials used. Less material not only adds to the durability but also saves a ton of money on the construction costs for the architects and contractors using 3D printing. While the benefits are endless there are still quite a few hurdles holding back this technology. Let’s get into the pros and cons of 3D printed construction.
Pros of 3D Printed Construction
- Lower Construction Costs. 3D printed buildings have much lower building costs than those built with traditional methods because of the reductions in raw material and more importantly labor. An architectural projects labor costs can be reduced by up to 80% by having most construction completed by 3D printers. Production costs are also reduced by eliminating the need for maintaining large storage spaces and having daily transportation of building materials.
- Reduced Construction Waste. Using 3D printed construction for architectural projects is more environmentally friendly. While using very little energy the printed construction will only generate about 30% of the waste that a normal construction project produces. Components are printed on-demand and any material not used can easily be recycled for future use. The cement mixture used in 3D printers can be produced out of recycled plastic and other imperishable materials.
- Increased Design Shapes. 3D printing can create design shapes and customization that isn’t possible or would be super expensive if done by regular construction. Printers can precisely place small amounts of concrete exactly where needed for complex shapes greatly enhancing an architects design possibilities.
- Reduced Construction Time. Using a 3D printer to complete a building project can massively reduce the construction period. Getting a house built with 3D technology can be completed in about a month in a half compared to the normal 6 month construction period. This can be extremely beneficial during an emergency situation where structures need to be built in as little time as possible.
Cons of 3D Printed Construction
- Building Codes. There are no regulations or processes to get 3D printed buildings approved for residential or commercial use. The government would first need to come up with standards that must be followed as far as electrical, plumbing, structural integrity and public safety codes.
- Material Types. The material that can be delivered from the printer head is pretty much limited to just concrete and plastics. Buildings requiring wood or steel components would not be able to use the printer to complete those portions.
- Engineering Compatibility. Very few architects and engineers have took interest in 3D printed buildings. The additional capabilities that come with the new technology are not being used during the design phase. Traditional blueprints are not compatible for use with a 3D printer so the entire design process needs to be handled differently.
3D printed construction is gaining popularity each and every year. The benefits can not be ignored by the small number of problems that currently exist with the technology. While most of the already completed 3D printed buildings are experimental projects to show the technologies capabilities there already families living in 3D printed homes and other printed buildings being used on a daily basis.