3D printing has come to the construction industry, just like it’s conquering many, many others. What can we expect from it when it comes to producing concrete elements and even massive structures? We found a few most recent industry innovations and their current or future applications. 3D printing in construction is definitely an exciting area to explore!
Earlier this year Ai Build, a startup company from London, presented an installation printed entirely by robots. They teamed up with Arup Engineers to show what 3D printing in construction can really mean for the future of the industry. The pavilion was printed using KUKA robots and consists of 48 elements. Its dimensions are 5m (width) x 5m (depth) x 4.5m (height). Production took only 3 weeks and 160kg of material. The project is a proof of concept of the technology and its applications in construction. The company showed that by using robotics and also a corn-based type of plastic, the process is more time-efficient. Another improvement is using artificial intelligence and algorithms to prevent mistakes in the final structure by compensating for them in the following layer printed.
First 3D Printed Office
It took just 17 days to make this world’s first 3D printed office building in Dubai, which follows the design by Gensler architects. At the moment, Dubai Future Foundation uses this space as their temporary office. Materials, including reinforced concrete and plastic, have passed tests for reliability in the UK and China. Remarkably, not only was the exterior printed but also interior elements came to life using the same technology. Dubai is known for its rapid development and use of newest technologies and this project exemplifies the city’s vision for innovation and leadership. With the new technology, they believe that labour costs, waste and also production time will greatly drop, by as much as 80%.
3D Printed Lab
Another amusing innovation from Dubai. This time, they announced a project for the very first laboratory constructed using 3D printing technology. But there is more to it! It will become the first construction made entirely onsite, eliminating the need to transport elements for assembly. Due to the building site being on a dessert, special adjustments need to be taken into account. The award of the contract has gone to a long-time player on the market, Convrgnt Value Engineering. The purpose of the lab is to create research space that will focus on 3D printing and drone technology. It will comprise of 4 specialist labs and outdoor area for testing flight.
Large-scale 3D printing in Europe
French company XtreeE is attempting to revolutionise the applications of large-scale 3D printing in construction, civil and mechanical engineering industries. Recently, a well-known Swiss construction company LafargeHolcim teamed up with XtreeE to construct Europe’s first printed concrete structural element. XtreeE has developed the technology and had previously produced raw elements. They focused on further developments since just over a year ago and their main focus is to incorporate digital technologies into the industries mentioned above. Their most recent achievement is a load-bearing post, that measures 4 meters and will support the roof on a playground in a Aix-en-Provence middle school. More projects are on the way and we should definitely keep an eye on these two collaborators. The very first 3D printed house in Europe should also arrive in a very near future.