The Need for 3D Printing in the Construction Industry

The Need for 3D Printing in the Construction Industry

The increasing demand for residential units forced the engineers to become more creative in finding better ways to utilize the “time factor” in order to reduce the construction cost. Moreover, due to the global economic inflation resulting in the materials and land costs increase, they had to resort to technology to accelerate their planning and development strategies to give them the leading edge in a very competitive world, especially when aiming to deliver affordable housing.

Numerous options in the construction world have progressed largely in recent years, allowing machines to be introduced into building and erecting structures, also construction methods with reinforced concrete panels like precast and modular systems made it easier for the building components preparation offsite, and introduced onsite for an easy assembly in a timely manner.

Although those systems are designed for fast and mass production, they have decent smooth finishing; however, they have limited the architect’s creativity because of their rectangular and rigid shapes that give the architectural volumes an industrial cold look.

Even though it became simpler and faster, the construction joints stayed visible on both sides of the walls and the ceilings and required additional craftsman work and decorative layers to enhance the interior and give it an elegant finishing.

When 3D printing was introduced into construction, it brought with it the options of customization, attractive modern designs with the possibility of printing inclined walls with wavy and curvy shapes, as well as a rapid deliverable on the project construction timeline. The architects regained with this option their creativity, and it gave them more flexibility in the designs, that they lost during the precast era.

This unconventional method takes time during the preparation of the layouts, for the precision that goes into the planning stage, especially with the MEP coordination that should be installed into the walls in between the two printed layers, however, the “printing of the project” is fast and straight forward, it also requires less human intervention and workers to complete the project, in comparison with the traditional construction methods.

“Overall 3D printing offers big promises for construction to be ignored, with its speed, waste reduction, design freedom, and fewer human errors, but it still needs a long way to become the exclusive construction method”

The latest 3D printing advantages did not only help the architects by enabling them to design any shape horizontally and vertically but also later helped the investors and landlords who are now capable to use their full allowable build-up area on their residential expensive lands by printing not only one floor but stretching up to three floors in one setup of the 3D printer that can complete the residential villa for example in a couple of months including the finishing.

Considering how new this technology is, the engineers are facing multiple challenges, especially in the gulf area, to present to authorities a structurally viable and stable product in terms of loading capabilities, with code-compliant insulation types injected into the printed layers of the external walls and so on. For that reason, engineers opted to keep using the concrete reinforced columns inside the printed walls with the formwork being the wall's printed layers themselves until the end users and authorities become more familiar and trusting with the load barring walls as a stable structure without any columns as it is being used internationally.

The option of this load-barring wall also has some disadvantages, especially on expensive lands with a small footprint, since the walls should be very thick with multiple printed layers inside it and that will make the internal livable areas of the rooms even smaller.

Overall 3D printing offers big promises for construction to be ignored, with its speed, waste reduction, design freedom, and fewer human errors, but it still needs a long way to become the exclusive construction method, for it is still costly and needs some testing and adjustments to meet all the regulations criteria, still, it holds a lot of potential for the future.

Weekly Brief

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