Something that started as a novelty is now becoming a practical application and the potential to see 3D printed houses in towns and cities around the world is fast becoming a reality.
Dubai won the race with the Office of the Future, claiming that it is the most advanced 3D printed building in the world. Printing took 17 days in total and the full installation was completed on-site in just 48 hours. Subsequent work on the building’s services, interiors, exterior finishing and landscaping took approximately three months to complete, but they aren’t stopping there. Another construction company in Dubai has announced plans to build the first 3D skyscraper in the United Arab Emirates, using a crane-sized mobile 3D printer and a specially-developed mortar mix.
In Russia, the closest creation to a fully-formed building is just outside Moscow, a 400 square foot house built entirely in situ.
So exactly what is 3D printing?
3D printing is the process of creating a three-dimensional object by laying down many layers of material in succession. These range from the more common synthetic resins and plastics, to steel and concrete. Natural materials, including bamboo, wood and natural stone waste, also play an important part.
Advantages of 3D printing in construction
There are many advantages to 3D printed buildings, both for the environment and for purse strings. If successfully scaled and applied in the construction and engineering industries, 3D printing will reduce on-site times, with labour cost savings of up to 50%, compared with conventional builds. It also has environmental benefits; with little material being wasted during the build process it is a sustainable solution.
3D creations around the world
Across the globe, 3D printed buildings are either here or underway.
– In Shanghai, a company claimed to print 10 houses in a single day back in 2014. The houses were printed from a concrete aggregate and, although they are not particularly refined, they caused a stir at the time.
– In Amsterdam, there is an ongoing effort to print a full-scale, classic canal-side property in the city centre. This is a research project to investigate the use of different materials.
– In the United States, a project is underway to create a printed 3D prototype pavilion in a reinforced carbon-fibre material.
Watch this space – it looks like this technology is here to stay.