Thursday, June 20, 2024

3D Printing Technology in Construction

Construction Technology 3D printing construction takes less time as compared to traditional constructional technology.

3D printing technology in construction, also known as additive manufacturing, is a technology that creates a 3D object layer by layer using a computer aided design tool or a 3D scan of the object that needs to be built. Additive manufacturing is widely used in the Automotive industry, pharmaceuticals industry, product prototyping, etc. 

3D printing technology is not a very new invention, it has been around for more than 40 years now in some form or other. The first 3D printer was invented by Charles Hull in the 1980s based on the principles of stereolithography, which is used to take input from a digital file and transform it into a resin-based 3D object layer by layer and simultaneously curing and cross-linking the polymers with the help of UV light.

Ever since, the use case of this technology has been enormous and is widely used in Industrial designing, the automotive industry, the pharmaceutical, healthcare industry, etc. The potential varies from creating a very small and simple 3D object to large and complex structures like rocket engine components, 3D prototypes of complex organs, tissues, etc. 

3D Printing
3D Printing

Adoption in Construction Industry 

In the construction industry, the use of 3D printing technology is very new, perhaps 6-7 years old. Over this period, we have seen many promising residential dwelling units that are being constructed using this technology around the world, however, the implementation of this technology for large-scale construction projects is still debated and one can say that it is in its developmental stages. As technology improves, there is no doubt that the integration of 3D printing with traditional construction techniques is going to change the future of construction. 

After being successfully implemented in several significant projects across the world, the technology was adopted in India, by L&T. In 2023, India’s first 3D printed post office spread across 1100 sft was built by L&T in 45 days at a cost of 23 lacs. The duration was reduced by approximately 40 percent, whereas the cost was approximately the same as compared to similar scale construction using traditional techniques, however this can be made affordable if implemented on a large scale. L&T had earlier constructed a 650 sft residential unit back in 2019 using 3D printing technology.

Advantages

Faster Construction Technology: 3D printing construction takes less time as compared to traditional constructional technology. Depending on the scale and complexity of the building, developments that take months to complete with traditional methods, can be completed within days using 3D printing technology. There is a considerable saving of approximately 40-50% in construction duration which is a huge benefit for the project.

3D Printing 1
Faster Construction Technology

Reduced Wastage: In traditional construction techniques, there is lots of wastage as the exact quantification and precision can’t always be achieved. This is mitigated when the construction is done using 3D printing technology as it is computer-aided and has no margin for error. It is estimated that 3D printing technology in construction can reduce construction waste by approximately 30-40%.

3D Printing 2
Reduced Wastage

Sustainable: There is a wide range of materials that can be integrated with concrete and used in 3D printing construction. One can use recycled plastics, soil, farm waste, etc. to make the design more sustainable and reduce carbon footprint.

3D Printing 3
Sustainable

Cost-effective: Since the 3D printing technology is computer-aided, the measurements and executions are accurate as per the input given and this reduces lots of wastage. Apart from this the project duration and manpower requirement are drastically reduced, resulting in considerable savings in terms of cost of construction.

3D Printing 4
Cost-effective

Disadvantages

Expensive Technology: Even though the construction duration and manpower requirement reduction are resulting in huge cost savings, it is being nullified by the cost of the printer and the technology. At present, the technology is being implemented on a small scale; it may become more cost effective if the execution is done on a large scale.

3D Printing 5
Expensive Technology

Training requirement: Since 3D printing construction is a relatively new technology, there is a requirement to provide adequate training and certifications to the labor to increase efficiency and be able to deliver complex projects.

3D Printing 6
Training requirement

Limited Technology Providers: Currently, the international market is dominated by COBOD International which provides 3D construction printing solutions worldwide. Other prominent technology partners with international presence are ICON, Apis Cor, CyBe Construction, Black Buffalo 3D, Mighty Buildings, Diamond Age, Aeditive, Mobbot, Contour Crafting Corporation, FBR, Change Maker 3D, Adimant, Serendix, AMT, WASP, WINSUN, D-Shape, BatiPrint 3D etc.

3D Printing 7
Limited Technology Providers

Future Scope 

The 3D printing technology in the construction industry is in its developmental phase and we are already seeing many individual small-scale residential projects and demo buildings coming up which are showcasing its potential and benefits. Since the construction industry is very complex and crowded with multiple stakeholders working on site simultaneously, the intervention of 3D printing technology simplifies a lot of things and streamlines the process, thereby achieving more efficiency and reducing the chances of error. 

Over time, we will experience challenges with the adoption of this technology like any other technology that has come up in the past, but they will be mitigated and soon 3D printing will dominate the way construction is being done. There have already been talks about using similar technology for space missions and it would be very interesting to see the limits and potential of this technological advancement.

Source: Colliers

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