According to studies carried out at Saxion University of Applied Sciences, the new 3D printing technology can contribute to the sustainable development of buildings.
3D printing is a process by which 3D objects are created in a digital file. It is also called additive production, because, unlike classic production, which involves cutting and removing the material from a piece of metal or plastic, 3D printing adds successive layers of material until the final object is obtained.
3D printing technology in construction
The construction industry is currently generating an enormous amount of waste, and progress towards sustainability is very slow. Due to the complexity of supply chains in the construction industry, environmental management interventions have had a limited impact. Construction projects can involve many different companies, and this makes it extremely difficult to ensure a sustainable approach throughout the supply chain.
However, destructive technologies, such as 3D printing, have the ability to change the way products are designed and manufactured, changing the structure of supply chains in a drastic manner. Studies show that 3D printing can bring many benefits to the construction industry, making it more efficient and sustainable.
The benefits of 3D printing in construction
Several researchers state that 3D printing technology is changing the rules of the game. As part of a two-year research program, scientists conducted studies on the feasibility of 3D printing of concrete, and what was found was convincing.
Here is a summary of these findings.
3D printing in construction means a shorter supply chain and a faster design process
On-site 3D printing means that time-consuming steps can be eliminated in the design process. Normally, the design of a building requires the intervention of architects, engineers, contractors, customers and executives.
Thanks to 3D printing, all these roles can be integrated only in that of the architect, using simulation and modeling techniques to ensure structural integrity. 3D renderings also allow consumers to visualize the design, which means that changes can be easily implemented before construction.
3D printing in construction means less logistics processes and less waste
The contractors who participated in the study interview believe that 3D printing has the capacity to eliminate three main factors related to transportation logistics. First of all, many parts end up being damaged due to transportation, which could be removed if you choose to print on-site.
Secondly, the parts become deteriorated due to transportation and this involves an additional cost. On-site 3D printing would eliminate these costs.
Thirdly, safe transportation and lifting require parts to have additional features, creating the need for extra post-assembly work. On-site 3D printing can eliminate the need for these features. Apart from these things, 3D printing eliminates the need for wooden molds that are used in traditional constructions, because in 3D printing, the raw material is used directly.
Customization of constructions
Digitizing part of the production process means that complex products can be customized at minimal added cost. Classically, building a home with the help of an architect was too expensive for many properties; not because of the price charged by the architect, but because of the need to adapt the construction methods.
But using 3D concrete printing, the actual shape that is printed is irrelevant in terms of cost, and that means more and more homeowners will be able to afford customized homes the way they want.
Simpler and more efficient installation for electrical pipes and installations
Here is another benefit of 3D printing in the construction segment. In the case of conventional constructions, the heating, insulation, water and electricity systems require on-site installation, which involves a lot of work. But with 3D concrete printing, some of these functions can be integrated into the 3D printing process.
Printing bare walls means using a smaller amount of materials, and insulation can be improved and can allow the use of 3D printed pipes and tubes for water transport. In addition, as there is no need for conventional on-site installations, the amount of waste is significantly reduced.
In conclusion, 3D printing brings major improvements in construction, and what we have presented above is only a small part of the benefits of this new technology.