3D Printing, The Future of Construction
Hi folks, I wanted to share some awesome information about 3D printing originally posted by our friends over at Contractor Talk. Here is the link to the original article. 3D printing is such a fresh and innovative technology that has only scratched the surface of the construction industry. It may only be a matter of years before most contractors have encountered a 3D printer.
When we talk about 3D printing we don’t often link it to construction or large-scale building. We think about it as plastics, creating small objects and various prototypes. All of this is great, but what does it have to do with construction? Well, it all begins with those small objects and prototypes, because they are the small scale version of what is to come. There is far more to 3D printing than a simple desktop 3D printer.
A Little Background Knowledge
The most popular form and probably the one we are all familiar with is called “additive manufacturing”. This is where layer by layer an object is created. Often times using plastic, additive manufacturing creates an object using hundreds, if not thousands of tiny layers. Over the years, other materials have been experimented with to create ceramic, rubber and even edible products using additive manufacturing.
Another form of 3D printing is called “laser sinistering”. This is where a laser beam is used to melt together powdered metal or wood, achieving a solid object. The process of laser sinistering like that of additive manufacturing comes down to the idea that a three-dimensional object is created from a computer rendered image.
Imagine the ability to create a custom tool for any job. I’m not just talking wrenches and drills here. Imagine creating tools that could make dealing with certain materials easier, all of them job-specific. You could literally create anything you think would better your team’s effectiveness and efficiency. The best part is, you make it beforehand and won’t ever have to worry about tools being available. Each contractor could have their own custom inventory. Think if contractors collaborated about the tools they created. Odds are that you have created something another guy needs and visa verse.
Just like that of tools, you can also 3D print parts. This is already being done by companies across industries creating jet engines, medical models, and camera lenses, among other things. As a contractor, you can create something as simple or as complex as you want. 3D printing customization is completely up to you, allowing something different for each job. The possibilities go on as 3D printing allows you capabilities unknown in traditional manufacturing methods.
3D printing has already entered the construction equipment market and it’s pretty amazing. In 2017 the first 3D printed excavator will make an appearance at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG and IFPE (International Fluid Power Exposition) trade show in Las Vegas. This is huge, we’re talking about a 3D printed piece of machinery here. If successful, we could see the beginning of a whole new equipment market. We may even see equipment that we never thought possible to build. Manufacturing technology will soon adapt to the idea of 3D printing, making things pretty streamlined. We will see tools and equipment created with various 3D printed parts, and equipment completely created from a 3D printer. As 3D printing becomes more mainstream, we should even see the cost of creating such tools and equipment go down.
Innovation In The Industry
Want to talk about cool? Listen to this. A firm in Dubai, UAE has created the world’s first 3D printed office building. Yeah, you read that correctly. This one story office building was constructed using a 120 foot long, 40 foot wide 3D printer. It includes reinforced concrete, glass-fiber-reinforced gypsum and fiber-reinforced plastic. This massive undertaking only took 17 days to print. Dubai is really a leader in this field, hoping to have 25% of all construction 3D printed by 2030. This is such a revolutionizing project as it is the first time 3D printing has been considered for construction. Imagine the possibilities if we can make 3D printing structures mainstream.
What’s in Store for the Future
3D printing is just getting started, and will be around for a long time. The construction industry has only just been introduced to this technology. It will be interesting to see where it goes. Dubai has set a new mark of what is possible, only acting as encouragement for others to tag along. Stay in touch with the technology as it evolves, because soon enough, I think we will all be buying 3D printed tools and equipment.