Have you ever thought that your house will be constructed using mega 3D printers pouring concrete to form the foundations and walls? What if only 2 to 3 supervisors operate the 3D printer and no more labors work on construction sites? On top of that, there is no wastage of resources on-site and your house is ready within 24 hours. Yes, this dream is now a reality with 3D printed houses being built around the globe. 3D printing is a cutting-edge technology all set to revolutionize the construction industry.
Correlation between 3D technology and construction industry
3D printing technology is relatively a new concept introduced not more than a decade ago. It started by creating different small-sized objects from different types of material including plastic, glass, metal, and resins, etc. The main idea is that a 3D printer is a complex machine that scans the input image and prints an object layer by layer using plastic or metal coming from a very small hose. The 3D printer technology improved with the passage of time thus making bigger objects for different kinds of industries. One of the examples in the production of various manufacturing and automotive parts.
3D printing technology has stepped into the construction and architecture industry and is all set to create different architectural projects and housing communities in Dubai, Mexico and other regions of the world. Any new idea, especially in the construction field is not welcome by the contractors accustomed to the traditional construction style. However, it is believed that 3D printing can do wonders in the construction field:
- Time-saving – Significant reduction in building and construction time. Some of the houses can be built within a day
- Cost-effective – Lessen the requirement of on-site laborers and manual work
- Safe – Reduction in man-hours and on-site injuries
- Effortless designing – Less effort and time required for designing and online sharing of blueprints
- Eco-friendly – Reduced carbon emission and footprint as some 3D printers use solar energy
- Less locomotion – Minimal or zero transportation and shipment of building parts
- Efficient – Potential increase in construction process efficiency
- Precise – More precision and accuracy with 3D printing thus minimizing human error
- Affordable – 3D houses are simple and affordable
- Flexible Design – A 3D construction printer can easily print curved surfaces and unique facades depending upon the design
Construction 3D printer
We all are curious about the mechanism involved in a 3D construction 3D printer. The principle of 3D printer remains the same from small-scale printers to large-scale construction 3D printers. The printer deposits paste-like material like concrete in the form of layers. Some examples of construction 3D printers available in the United States are ICON Vulcan II, Mudbots 3D concrete printer, Contour crafting, and Total Kustom StroyBot 6.2. Construction 3D printers can be categorized into two types based on their size and shape. One type looks like mega desktop Gantry type FFF/FDM 3D printers. While the other consists of a mechanical or robotic arm that rotate to print layers.
The 3D printer forms concrete layers of foundations and walls on the ground that serves as the printing plate. This layering process is repeated in a repeated manner until the completion of the house structure. State-of-the-art industrial control software is used to control and monitor the printer. Some of the 3D printers follow 3D print brick molds. The bricks are piled on top of another forming layer. This can be done manually or by using a robotic arm.
Examples of 3D printed houses
ICON is the first American company to construct a 3D printed house in Austin, Texas. This 2,000 square-foot house was constructed within a day without any waste or carbon emission.
3D Houses in Mexico
The main objective behind building 3D houses in Mexico is to create an affordable housing community to cater to the housing crisis and shortage. Each house takes approximately 24 hours to complete. The overall area of the house is 152 meters square with the manual fitting of doors, windows, and other interiors.
These 3D printed houses are sustainable and energy-efficient. They have solar panels installed on their roofs for energy generation. The showers installed in the bathrooms recycle the water. One of the advantages of these houses is that they can be transported to any location.
3D printed House Chicago
This 3D printed house is made of plastic, carbon-fiber panels, and glazed walls. This house is nothing less than a piece of art created by a talented team of architects.
Two-Story Building in Dubai
This building was printed using a robotic arm printer. The entire building was printed in 11 months and the overall project was completed in 1.5 years.
It is now a fact that concrete 3D printed homes can be built is far lesser time and require a lesser number of resources in the form of material and manual labor as compared to the traditional homes. 3D printed houses are not just cost-effective but eco-friendly as well. On the other hand, this new technology has its challenges like an expensive one-time initial investment. Construction 3D printers can cost up to one million dollars to the construction companies. 3D printers built a basic concrete frame of the houses. Other tasks including wiring, plumbing, and installation are done manually afterwards.
Currently, there are only single-story 3D houses constructed so, the scalability of the houses is under consideration. There are going to be large-scale multi-story 3D buildings developed in the near future. The safety assessment of 3D houses has to be done more vigorously to check if they can withstand natural disasters and extreme weather conditions.
Advancements in technology have changed our lifestyle. We will be living in an eco-friendly and sustainable house completely constructed by a machine.