Space Age Construction Techniques are Here to Stay

Space Age Construction Techniques are Here to Stay

21st October 2015

Back in January we published a list of construction industry predictions for 2015 in a bid to make sure our readers are up to date with all the latest developments in this sector.  One of the predictions dealt with the rapidly developing 3D printing industry – a technology that’s likely to change the way in which we live before too long.  The 3D printing industry is predicted to influence building material manufacturers and architects expect the technology to provide cost effective, swift and sustainable construction of custom made architecture.  Recent reports in the media have been highlighting the advances in 3D printing and a Russian engineer, Nikita Chen-yun-ta recently lauched a 3D printer that can spit out a multi storey home in a single day.

Building printing in this way has many advantages, including quicker construction, lower labour costs and a reduction in waste.  In 2014, NASA funded a study at the University of Southern California to develop 3D printing techniques with potential applications for constructing lunar structures of a material that could consist of up to 90% lunar material, requiring less material to be transported from Earth.

Earlier this year a Chinese materials company produced ten 3D printed buildings in 24 hours using a custom built machine that uses layers of construction waste mixed with cement.  Apparently the company spent £2 million over 12 years to develop the specialised additive manufacturing machine.  The buildings were manufactured on an assembly line using four 3D printing machines to make the walls and structural elements but traditional manufacturing processes were used to make the roofs of the buildings which are now being used as offices.

On the subject of office buildings, Dubai is planning a 2,000 square foot office building with a difference – all of its components being will be 3D printed.  The project will use Special Reinforced Concrete (SRC), Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) and Glass Fibre Reinforced Gypsum (GRG) – even the furniture inside will be 3D printed.  Boasting a futuristic design it will serve as temporary headquarters to the nearby “Museum of the Future” and will feature a flexible, open-plan space that will also accommodate a small digital fabrication facility and 3D printing exhibition. 

Right now, 3D printing technology is disrupting so many industries and conventional methods of production.  Websites like Shapeways offer a great way for makers and craftspeople to get in on the act without having to buy an expensive 3D printer themselves.  The technology has become more affordable to the home user with the release of a number of 3D printing pens, though having used one, I must say that the functionality is fairly limited at present – it’s a bit like using a hot glue gun with a similar amount of (in) accuracy involved! Table-top office sized 3D printers are already on the market and becoming more affordable by the day and this is unleashing an entrepreneurial movement that’s allowing would-be inventors a great opportunity to bring to market niche products that just would not be available or affordable without this cool new technology.

One thing’s for sure, 3D printing is here and it’s here to stay.  We’re likely to see some cool new developments in the next few years as the technology is harnessed and put to use in all types of industries, including the construction sector.