Buildings large and small are being built all over the world with 3d printers.
Specialists in the United States, Dubai, the Netherlands, China and Russia have managed to take the process of constructing a building and completely alter it with the advent of a new automated technology that will most likely get cheaper and more efficient over time.
An office building in Dubai, a large house in China and a small house printed by a California based company in Russia, are all examples of the way that architects, engineers, material scientists and hardware experts have come together to offer the global construction industry a new tool.
“San Francisco-based startup Apis Cor built a whole house in a Russian town within 24 hours,” Mariella Moon wrote in Engagdet this week. “It didn’t repair an existing home or use prefabricated parts to make that happen — the secret lies in 3D printing.”
The Apis Cor house is just the latest example of a surge in 3d printed structures all over the world in recent years.
“The building is a research into compact and sustainable dwelling solutions in urban environments,” DUS Architects in Amsterdam said last year after creating a micro home in the city. The company is currently working towards the creation of a full scale row house along Amsterdam’s famed canals network.
For housing policy makers and developers it’s noteworthy that buildings of much greater size than the one built by DUS are rising, and in many cases, they’re using recycled materials which reduces human safety risk and environmental impact.
“To obtain natural stone, we have to employ miners, dig up blocks of stone and saw them into pieces. This badly damages the environment,” Ma Yihe says. Yihe is the inventor of a 3d printer which created 10 homes in under 24 hours in China.
“But with 3D printing, we recycle mine tailings into usable materials. And we can print buildings with any digital design our customers bring us. It’s fast and cheap.”
There are surely use cases for additive manufacturing — otherwise known as 3d printing — in medical, defense and transportation areas, but housing should not be underestimated.
Last year Saudi Arabia announced it was looking into the use of 3d printing for the 1.5 million homes they plan to create in the next 5 years.
“We’ve never run into a constraint on space so we can produce almost anything anybody comes up with,” Platt Boyd, the founder of Branch Technology in Tennessee said. His company also specializes in 3d printing large structures.
“When you can think systematically how we create a building and can integrate geometries and materials and different configurations it opens up all kinds of possibilities for very creative thinking.”
As we think about massive infrastructure projects over the next couple of decades, it can be useful to leverage this technology which reduces safety risk, increases production speeds and lowers costs in many cases. It would also be useful to train people to use these tools as they become more valuable.