Construction 3D printing is a rapidly growing application of 3D printing that is seeing an exponential growth in recent years. The reason is owing to the development of construction 3D printing technologies, the construction materials and supporting software. By combining all these three things, the technology is able to build strong structures like building, brides, outdoor furniture, and even sculptures.
According to a 2019 MarketsAndMarkets report, the construction 3D printing industry is set to grow at a CAGR of 245% till 2024. This makes us stop and take notice of the new application in 3D printing and how it will play out in the coming future.
But before talking about the implications of the technology, we will explore the construction 3D printing technologies in use in current times and how they operate. Additionally, you can also read about the construction 3D printing process.
Construction 3D Printing Technologies
Traditional construction industry is facing a new challenge from the emerging 3D printing technologies developed specifically for the printing of concrete and metal structures. The construction is not limited to houses, but multi-storey building, infrastructures like bridges, statues and abstract art is also on the radar of the new technology.
We take a look at some of the construction 3D printing technologies in use at the moment.
1. Contour Crafting or Gantry-Style
One of the most popular techniques used in construction 3D printing is with the use of Gantry. This technique is called as Contour Crafting. This method has three gantries and a printhead which deposits the material through a large material extruder onto the ground where the structure will be built.
Construction 3D printing is very similar to FDM/FFF 3D printing. In the case of FDM/FFF 3D printing process where the extruder deposits the melted material onto a build platform. The build area always lies within the guiderails and the rails ensure that the deposition occurs at the correct geometrical spot though the instructions assigned by the software.
Similarly, for concrete 3D printing, guide rails are installed around the building area where the deposition will take place. The extruder moves into position according to the set of instructions passed on by the software. The printing follows a similar layer-by-layer process of extruding the concrete material from the nozzle of the extruder. Trowels placed on the side and above the nozzle to flatten the extruded layers and ensure strength of the model.
2. D-Shape® or Sand 3D Printing
Another construction 3D printing technique is called as D-Shape®. It is a method of digital construction that uses a binder jetting 3D printer for architecture. An Italian Architect – Enrico Dini, was observing the Z-Corp 3D printer at his work place when he suddenly realised the potential of the technology in the architectural space.
The D-Shape® is a particle bed process that materializes buildings or building blocks directly from your computer via a process of alternating layers of granular material and writing on them with an appropriate ‘Ink Binder’ that turns the granular material into a shape.. The D-Shape 3D printer spreads a thin layer of sand powder as per the geometry of the design in a layer by layer form and after each layer, the deposited material is poured with droplets of a binder material to harden the sane particles.
According to the company, D-Shape is the only construction 3D printing process that can design and build an entire building structure in one-go. It can print anything and everything from the basement, up to the roof including foundations, partitioning walls, ceilings, stairs, and cavities for MEP, outer patterns, and furniture. This is made possible by the particular material deposition technique that makes the structure self-sustaining during its construction. By this way, it is possible to construct buildings of any shape.
However, it must be noted that this technology can not only be used for building large structures but also for complex and abstract art structures.
3. Robotic Arm 3D Printing
The third popular method for construction 3D printing is through the use of a Robotic arm. The technology is called Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM). One of the first company to use and popularise was MX3D – a Dutch Startup. Their machine can build metal structures with a 6-axis robot by dropping 2 kilograms of material per hour. Their first construction project was the 3D printed steel bridge in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
The WAAM technology is a type of a Directed Energy Deposition (DED) 3D printing technology that uses a welding equipment, a nozzle and metal material (metal rods in this case) to build objects in a layer-by-layer process. Metals such as stainless steel, bronze, Inconel and aluminium are compatible with this technology.
According to the MX3D team, they combined an industrial robot with a welding machine to turn it into a 3D printer that works with their own software. The technology was developed through a collaboration with Air Liquide and ArcelorMittal.
A lot of Startups are exploring this technology. In 2017, the Royal BAM Group partnered with Eindhoven University of Technology to design a 3D printed concrete bridge for cyclists which was one of the first completed construction 3D printed bridge in the world. Also, XtreeE, a French startup, collaborated with Vinci Construction, an established French construction engineering company, to test the construction of complex structures though this method.
Construction 3D printing is gaining rapid adoption and a lot of companies are now exploring its potential. The technology definitely offers better alternative to conventional ways of construction. The technology is the solution for existing construction challenges and more research must be put into making this technology even better.
Which are the top companies in Construction 3D Printing?
What is the Future of 3D Printing in Construction?
Conventional ways of construction are polluting, wasteful, laborious and time-taking. With a drive towards being sustainable, 3D printing is the solution to a lot of the construction woes faced today. Though the technology is yet to fully develop for being efficient, it will capture a significant chunk of the traditional construction market in the coming future.
Is Construction 3D Printing sustainable?
Short answer is Yes, construction 3D printing is as it uses less material leading to less waste, can work with less polluting materials, requires less water, less labour and is faster. The technology will only get better from here.
About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D printing. which publishes the latest 3D printing news, insights and analysis from all around the world. Visit our 3D Printing Education page to read more such informative articles. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.