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You know it. You’ve heard about it. And, perhaps you even love doing it. Of course, we are talking about 3D printing. Over the past couple of years, we have witnessed the disruptive power of 3D printing. Even now, during the current global crisis, we have seen how 3D printing can be extremely useful.
You have heard it over and over again. 3D printing is going to change the world and perhaps you feel like you have missed out on this great 3D printing revolution. We are here to tell you that it is all about. Just look at the numbers.
In 2018, the additive manufacturing industry had a market size of a meager but an impressive $8 billion. However, by 2026, that industry is expected to expand to a massive $51 billion dollars thanks to its annual growth rate of about 24-26% each year. But why? As mentioned before, 3D printing is disrupting just about every major industry, and we have yet to even see its full potential.
Additive manufacturing is making waves in healthcare, fashion design, food, the aerospace industry, and the automotive industry just to name a few. 3D printing offers these industries the ability to prototype, create spare parts, and even produce fully functional parts in a fraction of the time and cost.
Vyomesh Joshi, President & CEO of 3D Systems, shared his excitement for 3D Printing the industry review stating, “For me, it’s amazing to look back at more than a generation of manufacturing to see the value 3D printing delivers to the manufacturing process. What started as an enabler for prototyping is now finding its place in production environments. 3D production is truly real. Today millions of “invisible” parts are printed: sacrificial tools that never see the light of day. Hundreds of thousands of dental models are produced yearly.”
“We are seeing additive manufacturing produce parts with excellent properties from metal alloys or industrial plastics in volume. The progress of the past year is positioning the 3D printing industry for incremental, intentional digital innovation, based on the four pillars of progress: productivity, durability, repeatability, and total cost of operation.”
What about construction?
One industry that seems to occasionally get overlooked when discussing the additive manufacturing disruption seems to be the construction industry. However, some of the most dramatic changes to the industry in the last 3-5 years, as well as innovation can be attributed to additive manufacturing. As previously mentioned, 3D printing allows for the creation of products using a quick and cost-effective process. This has opened the gates to new construction methods both on the commercial and consumer side of things, better construction techniques, and even safer construction methods.
Now, as a quick refresher, additive manufacturing is the process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file. If you own a basic FDM 3D printer, you are probably very familiar with this process. You pick or design a model in a 3D modeling software and send the file to your specified 3D printer. Using a filament, in this case, thermoplastic, your printer slowly prints your model layer by layer by melting the quick-drying thermoplastic. Though there are different variations of this printing process, and different materials, additive manufacturing in the construction is not much different. People are excited about the coming changes.
As mentioned in a blog post by Evok advertising, “Every part of a construction project is custom made to meet the needs of the end-user and the constricts of land being built on. Sometimes, a particularly shaped part is needed, and a 3D printer makes it easier and less expensive to produce. Some engineers estimate that using this technology will reduce the cost to build a home up to 50% due to reduced costs for construction materials and lower labor costs”
Today, we are going to examine how additive manufacturing is changing the construction world, and look at how these changes may make their way to a city near you.
3D printing is creating an entirely new construction process
If you see a company use 3D printing to create a series of useful and impressive 3D printing projects, look no further than creative company MX3D. The creative Dutch company utilizes the fascinating process of metal 3D printing and robotics to create a fully functional structure for both the public and commercial projects. With the goal of “introducing the three dimensional solid objects from a digital file”, the MX3D team plans on using the constructive power of additive manufacturing, in our living rooms, on construction projects across the planet, and even on projects on other planets.
One of the coolest projects the team has put together is the MX3D bridge. In short, the team printed a fully functional stainless steel bridge across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, one of the oldest and most famous canals in the center of Amsterdam. The pedestrian bridge is 12 meters long and features a stunning futuristic design. To construct the bridge the team utilized two industrial robots. Each of the automated robots was responsible for printing their side of the bridge eventually meeting together in the middle.
Aside from the innovative construction process, the MX3D team collaborated with multiple mathematicians, IoT specialists, and leading 3D printing experts to complete the project. As described by the team, “the unique approach allows us to 3D print strong, complex, and graceful structures out of metal. The goal of the MX3D Bridge project is to showcase the potential applications of multi-axis 3D printing technology”.
There could come a time in the near future, where construction projects around a major city are simply 3D printed with little to no human assistance. Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G technology, and the Internet of Things could make this possible in the next five years.
We will 3D print commercial sites
Dubai is well known for embracing emerging technologies. Recently the Dubai Future Foundation has broken a record this year creating the world’s first 3D printed commercial building. In the near future, offices, libraries, and even coffee shops may be 3D printed. The DFF’s building measures 6 meters high, 36.5 meters long and about 12.1 meters wide. The project was completed with just one 3D printer. The actual print took 17 days to construct and about 3 months to build, requiring 50% less manpower than your traditional building. Even more so, they used 60% less waste for its construction.
Projects like these are excellent examples of how we can build up the cities around us. "That we have shown the way to dramatically cut material costs and the environmentally-harmful byproducts that occur during the construction process, is a testament to Dubai’s pioneering attitude to providing future-forward, sustainable solutions, and which reinforces the emirate’s position as a test-bed of new ideas and a home to a spirit of innovation. We are humbled by this award and look forward to continuing to help shape the future of our nation,” says Khalfan Belhoul, CEO of Dubai Future Foundation.
We will have better construction methods
If you have learned anything over the past couple of years, data is as good as gold. Tools based on machine learning and artificial intelligence have allowed humans to make better decisions. Now more than ever, we are able to look at massive amounts of data to build, construct, and design better than ever before. Using these emerging technologies, we will be able to construct even more precisely. Due to some of the unique traits of 3D printing, developers are able to even create optimized atypical design structures to match an individual's taste or to simply work within an environment.
The Eindhoven University of Technology has developed 3D printed homes that look like something from an alien world. The concrete 3D printed homes have all the amenities you might crave and more in a standard home. Home designs can be hyper customized to fit a person's or family's needs. Hyper-customization will offer people the opportunity to create the home of their dreams.
3D printing could make construction much safer
Construction can be a very dangerous job. According to OSHA, 1 in 5 worker deaths annually are construction related. Though construction methods and practices are improving, just in 2018, construction worker death accounted for 47% of all fatal work injuries in the United States. 33.5% of the deaths are related to falls, 11.% is caused by being struck by an object, 8.5% are caused by electrocutions, while 5.5% is caused by those who are caught between an object.
Additive manufacturing could go on to make construction much safer. As mentioned in this article, 3D printing a building will eventually require very little manpower. Add in robotics to take care of the more dangerous tasks and you could drastically reduce construction-related injuries. In short, additive manufacturing could make the lives of construction workers much easier and safer.
3D printing will make the construction process much cheaper
We have said it multiple times throughout the article, 3D printing will make the construction process much easier. First and foremost, 3D printing will help reduce the wasting of materials in multiple different ways. When taking on a 3D printed construction project you use the exact amount of materials needed, rather than using traditional methods like ordering in bulk. Even more so, construction materials can be more easily recycled and used again for another project.
Less manpower is required for a project, cutting down on employee costs. Basically, due to the reduction of injuries, time, and material costs, companies will see a dramatic increase in their profits. The downside to this is that eventually, fewer people will be needed to complete a construction project.
3D printed affordable homes for all
Another obvious implication of additive manufacturing in construction is in the construction of homes. There are multiple startups around the world who are using the power of 3D printing to construct livable homes in 24 hours or less. Global leader Winsun 3D has even developed a method for creating 3D printed homes using recycled materials. These 3D printed homes are durable and are occasionally moveable, making it possible for those who want to move their home to their next location. Cheaper cost and quicker construction times open the doors to more homes for more people including the homeless.
There is no better example of this than in the New Story, ICON collaborative project down in rural Mexico. New Story, the nonprofit leading the project, has a simple mission using the new power of the 3D printing construction process to offer affordable housing to lower-income families and people living in horrible environments. Using a massive 33-foot-long 3D printer, the collaborative team has constructed an entire neighborhood of 3D printed homes. Each home takes less than 24 hours to make and is 500 square feet, complete with finished roofs, windows, and interiors.
The New Story team fully embraces the revolutionary power of additive manufacturing. “The challenge we face is monumental; there are more than a billion people across the globe living without safe shelter. To make a dent in that number, our ability to scale up has to change,” says the New Story Team.
“Building 3D printed homes is faster, and has the potential for higher quality, more affordable homes than the current industry standard. Partnering with ICON, our goal is to help power those who are building homes for families living without shelter — governments and non-profits alike — to do their best work”
3D printing homes will become even more common in the near future offering people of all classes the opportunity to own a home. Companies like haus.me have created 3D printed homes that look like something fresh out of a futuristic Ikea catalog. These stunning homes allow residents to completely live off the grid in their own sustainable home. Would you ever live in a 3D printed home?
3D printing beyond
3D printing in the world of construction is still in its early stages, yet the industry itself is evolving at a rapid pace. Yet there are still a few hurdles we need to get over before we can go about printing entire towns and maybe even cities. One of the biggest limitations is that construction printers tend to use only one material at a time.
This is why multiple printers or other manpower may be required offsite to complete a project. Even more so, the construction industry has yet to find a commercially viable way to print massive city level structures as you would need to create a massive 3D printer. Nevertheless, the world of 3D printing construction is exciting. In the next five years, you could be living in your own 3D printed structure. Would you?