In many ways, the housing industry hasn’t changed much in the last few decades. While newer, more efficient, and faster methods of construction, such as modular construction, have become more commonplace, it is not much different from traditional construction. Only the means of assembly is different; it still uses the same basic components: metal, concrete, sand, and stone.
Here comes the widely-lauded 3D printing, the process of creating a physical object from a three-dimensional model by laying together several thin layers of a base material together in quick succession. Despite its relative novelty, companies around the world have proven that 3D printing is good for more than just creating small tools and trinkets.
How does 3D Printing Work?
As mentioned earlier, 3D printing starts with a three-dimensional model, typically made from a computer-aided design (CAD) software. Once the model has been finalised, a 3D printer will create the object one layer at a time.
Some 3D printers will use a heat source to melt and fuse powdered materials, like nylon, plastic, ceramic, or even metal. Other 3D printers use polymer resin materials instead of powdered materials and heat it to create ultra-thin layers. The most common commercially-available 3D printers force out PLA or PBS plastics in filament form through a heated extruder.
There is no technical limit to the size and intricacy of a design because the CAD software covers this. Usually, it comes down to the malleability and strength of a chosen material that determines whether the final product is useful or not.
Can you construct a building with a 3D printer?
Back in the mid-1980s when inventor Charles W. Hull introduced the first 3D printer, it was mostly used to create small research and laboratory tools. Other applications, such as medical equipment, artificial limbs, and even aircraft components quickly followed—but nobody would have ever thought to use the technology for construction.
Fast forward to 2019 in Dubai, when American company Apis Corps built the largest 3D-printed building with just three workers and one giant 3D printer in only three weeks. The company hoisted the 3D printer on a crane and moved it around the site to “print” the building one section at the time. It extruded a cement mixture through a nozzle and built the building by stacking layers.
While the building still required manual pouring of cement and rebar reinforcement for the foundation, the rest of the building excluding fixtures like doors and windows were all 3D-printed.
Is 3D printing better than traditional construction methods?
3D printing as a construction method has a few distinct advantages. As we mentioned earlier, Apis Corps managed to build a two-storey building standing at 31 ft high and roughly 6,900 sq. ft. of floor space in as short as three weeks. That means that a typical single-detached home could be done in around one to two days!
Materials used in 3D printing are also resistant to mould, moisture, and sunlight while also being relatively impervious to pests like insects and rodents. The most common materials used in such construction is still concrete—but research is already underway for filaments made from glass, plastics, and other waste materials.
The only possible downside of 3D printing in home construction is cost. Because it is still a relatively novel method of building, there is no one-size-fits-all solution available. Companies that utilise this method for construction are often also the ones who invest in the research and development of their printers. That being said, the significantly shortened construction time could well be worth it. The good news is that as technology advances even further, 3D printed homes can very well replace the traditional construction methods we know today.
3D Quick Printing provides best-in-class 3D printing services for architects, engineers, hobbyists, entrepreneurs, and others looking to build their prototype products. Our market-leading Stratasys 3D printers are compatible with ABS plastic, Flex (Polypropylene) rubber, nylon with carbon, PLA. Nylon 12, and PETG. Contact us today to get a free 3D printing service quote!