Traditionally, the construction market has been a bit conservative in its adoption of new technology and innovations that boost productivity. However, many companies have turned over a new leaf and embraced digital technology in early and late phases of the construction process. When it comes to changes in the actual construction process, the advent of 3D construction printing is likely to change the thinking among many companies.
3D concrete printing is an innovative and advanced method of building predesigned components of a structure through the use of 3D concrete printers. The technology promises to optimise various aspects of the construction process, including time, cost, environmental impact, design flexibility and errors. Experiments using this technology have acknowledged that this is something that can be adopted on a broad scale by construction companies, with many keen to experiment using different printing machines and concrete mixes.
The global 3D construction printing sector is primed to gather steam with efforts being made to roll out the technique to more regions. This could be especially good news for contractors and building professionals keen on producing quality results at relatively lower costs. John Hiscocks, the lead architect for Hill International, is among many professionals with a keen interest in building construction techniques who are no doubt keeping a close eye on the advancement and adoption of 3D construction printing.
Growth of Uptake
Key stakeholders in the construction industry are coming together to push the uptake of 3D concrete printing techniques. As more entities look into it, they are experimenting with various concrete mixes that are in the market. This is resulting in construction companies using the technique to build various structural elements such as pavement slabs, walls, floors and panels.
Globally, the fastest-growing market is the Asia Pacific region, which has rising populations and has seen an increase in disposable incomes. These factors have led to the rise of construction projects in the recent past, with China among the attractive places for 3D concrete printing techniques to take root. Government backing and increased awareness has also helped the uptake of the technique within the construction industry.
A Closer Look
Eventually, the hope for proponents of 3D concrete printing is that it will become a standard feature in the construction process. However, it’s worth taking a look at what the technique actually involves.
3D printing refers to the creation of physical objects in a layered manner by an automated (and typically computer-guided) machine. The machine relies on digital 3D models of the end result and uses materials such as powdered solids, liquids or metals to create the object. 3D printing is a technology that has been used in other applications, including the production of vehicle spare parts and surgical implants. Its wide use is a factor of three aspects: the availability of suitable materials; the flexibility in design; and the freedom to create complex objects in an inexpensive manner that can either be onsite or offsite.
3D construction is viewed as an emerging technology that has the potential to introduce innovative changes to the construction industry. Many of the buildings that have been constructed using this technique have been erected to display its practical viability. Across the world, a handful of 3D printed buildings have been constructed. There are some public restrooms and bus stop shelters in China, a residential home in Russia, and an office building in Dubai.
The widespread adoption of 3D construction printing may continue, but one factor that might hold it back is the need to comply with building regulations, which vary across regions and countries. Many countries will want to see that the technique can comply with building codes for aspects such as safety and durability.