New Dimensions – 3D Printing Technology

It seems that 3D printing is going from strength to strength, you only have to open a newspaper recently to discover someone has found another use for the technology in some industry or another.

Cars, Jet Engines and Prosthetics limbs are just a few of the recent 3D printing success stories hitting the headlines and never one to be left out the construction industry is no exception.

Last year Shanghai based construction firm WinSun constructed ten houses in less than twenty-four hours using 3D printing technology and this year they set the bar even higher, printing, in their own words “the world’s tallest 3D-printed building” a five-storey apartment block and as if that wasn’t enough they also printed a neoclassical mansion right next door.

Once completed both the structures were then signed off as being in full compliance with the relevant national standards.

Pretty impressive stuff but how does it all work we hear you ask well using 3D modelling software a virtual design of an object or section of a building in this case is created. The software then slices the design in to thousands of horizontal layers ready for printing.

In the case of the five-storey apartment block a 10 meter tall printer was used to print the various sections needed for the building. The printer works by building up layers of a special “ink” that consists of recycled rubble, fibreglass, steel, cement and hardening agents. Once this has dried (approximately 24 hours) the printed sections can then be assembled in to a finished building…or a neoclassical mansion.

The possibilities of 3D architecture really can not be ignored with many seeing this method of construction as a solution to affordable housing in poorer areas or the rapid rebuilding of homes in areas effected by natural disasters.

All that is still a way of yet though, yes this technology could transform the construction industry but at present there is no specific standard for 3D printing architecture. Over time certain regulations will need to be put in place to enable solutions like large scale construction of affordable housing to become a reality.

While it still may take some time before 3D printing is considered the mainstream in any industry, it can not be denied that it is a big game changer and an exciting one at that.