3D Print for Speed and Sustainability!

The term additive manufacturing is used to describe a wide range of technologies, including 3D printing, rapid prototyping and direct digital manufacturing. All of these are technologies which create 3D objects by layering materials.


These methods of manufacturing are more versatile than traditional manufacturing techniques, allowing a broader range of materials to be used and users to create completely unique shapes and structures. 3D printing is now used in a wide range of different industries, including construction, to create everything from simple tools to complex components.

 

More Science – Less Fiction

CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems are the foundation of the majority of additive manufacturing technologies. Once a sketch or design has been completed within a CAD system, the equipment reads the data and begins additive layering using appropriate materials, printing your object.

The technology is hugely versatile, allowing 3D objects to be created from a range of different materials. In terms of the future of construction, this could allow replacement parts to be easily printed on site. Hard to acquire parts could be created within a fraction of the time it would take to source the part and get it delivered and at a sliver of the cost.

On a far larger scale and as we have talked about in earlier blogs, 3D printing is also being used to directly print houses on site. These houses have the potential to cost far less in terms of materials and labour to produce, meaning they could be more affordable homes once complete.

 

Grand Designs for Humble Prices

The versatility of 3D printing allows designers to easily create complex bespoke components. Designs which would be impossible to manufacture as single units through traditional methods and must be assembled, can be created solid through the layering process of 3D Printing. 3D printing is likely to improve flexibility on site as well as reducing costs overall, especially when twinned with automation and all the progress being made in that field.

In times past, production limitations have influenced design. This is particularly true with ambitious structures. With 3D printing, design and construction have been revolutionised and what was thought of as impossible is suddenly possible. This flexibility has the potential to open up grand design style homes and objects at far reduced cost.

 

A 3D Printed Future

This may all seem like the distant future and it is certainly true that we have been hearing about all of this technology for years, but the future might be as soon as 2019.

A Dutch construction company (Van Wijnen) will be putting five new, 3D printed houses on the market as early as 2019 and 20 people have already shown interest, the build is being called Project Milestone. 

Van Winjen believe that the use of this sort of new technology may help to counter the shortage of skilled workmen in the Netherlands. This is an issue which will be familiar to anyone who has read any of our blogs on the widening skill gap and could well present us with a viable solution in the years to come.

3D Printing also has the potential of reducing the environmental impact of construction. The techniques waste less resources, which in turn means they cause less damage to the environment (as production of concrete can be quite damaging).

Van Winjen are expecting to print the exterior and interior walls of the structures and then use the printer (located on site) again to create drainage pipes and other simple installations, helping reduce transport and material costs. The company suggested they thought 3D printed homes would be normalised within 5 years. Time will tell.