We live in a truly exciting age where advances in human ingenuity have given rise to some ground breaking pieces of technology. What was once thought science fiction only a few short decades ago has now become a reality, and perhaps at the forefront of these pioneering technologies becoming integrated into society is 3D printing. With the ability to physically print single components, or entire structures, 3D printing has become a game changer in the building and construction industry.
A potential solution to global housing demands?
According to the UN, it is estimated that three billion people will require housing around the world by 2030. It has been suggested that 3D printing would serve as a very viable solution to this issue. Not only does the technique drastically reduce the costs associated with construction, but the time required to complete a single structure is only a fraction of what it would normally be.
To give you a better idea of its potential, a Chinese company called WinSun is currently using the technology to build apartment buildings and single homes for just $5000 per house. Not only that, but WinSun states it can construct a 33 x 132 x 20 foot house in under 24 hours. They accomplish this by printing individual construction components at their facilities, transporting them to the construction site, and finally assembling everything on-site using steel and similar materials.
Compared to the traditional brick and mortar method, the company reported a drastic reduction in labour cost of around 50-80% and a 70% improvement to waste reduction.
Impact on the construction industry
If 3D printing technologies continue to expand and become more accessible to those in the domestic and commercial sectors, we may begin to see a drop in employment opportunities for carpenters, electricians, plumbers and other tradies. However, much like with the rise of any new technology, we will also see new jobs emerge surrounding three dimensional printing.
Industry professionals theorise that instead of seeing large, commercial sized printers fabricating entire homes like we’re currently seeing in China, 3D printing will more likely be used for creating key elements of the project.
Recent refinements of the technology have seen the use of composite concrete mixtures that are self-supporting practically straight after being laid. Combined with large robotic arms and printer heads, structures can be completed perfectly down to the granular level to the exact specifications of the designer.
This is merely the beginning, with more exciting ideas waiting in the pipeline.