Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members


Imagine living in a coastal city and having a tsunami strike. The once beautiful panorama becomes the fuel for nightmares. The tsunami leaves death and destruction in its wake with a trail of debris scattered throughout the once beautiful city. A calamity can often strike without warning and leave many homeless. There is no rhyme or reason for it. For not everyone can afford home insurance as many are still paying their home loan EMIs. In such a situation, it often meant that one had to find another abode with a friend or a loved one, who would be willing to share the roof over their heads.

It is here that 3D printing can act as a panacea. With 3D printing, it is possible to even build a home within 24 hours.

Source: Transparencymarketresearch

3D printing can solve an array of problems in the construction sector.  Estimates by Transparencymarketresearch highlight that the 40 percent of waste generated worldwide is from the construction sector.  Based on insights from Forbes, let’s take a closer look at how 3D printing is disrupting the construction sector.

Construction advantages

Over the past decade, experiments have been conducted with regard to creating home and building components with 3D printing by engineering research teams.  Using a composite mixture and specialised concrete, enormous printers have been used to create a much thicker concrete that are self-supporting while they set. How does this help?

This has led to a new world of possibilities for architects around the world. They can now use the thicker concrete and enormous printers to build curvilinear forms sans the process and cost constraints of rectangular processing thereby circumventing its typical design limitations.  In a such a way 3D printing could foster innovation among designers and prevent them from creating rectangular structures that are relatively weaker.

The structural components created via 3D printing, also known as concrete crafting, use relatively fewer components than the same components that are created with traditional concrete-forming techniques. The materials used in 3D printing are also fewer. Further, unlike curved concrete structures poured into forms that are solid, the structures created by 3D printing can be hollower.

While it is still not commercially available, 3D printing on construction highlights the exciting possibility of a societal impact via lowered construction costs.

Market headway

Architects are certainly paying attention. A Chinese company used a robotic arm attached to a 3D printer head to build a 400-square-meter villa in Beijing in just 45 days. Meanwhile, in France, a company is testing the use of 3D printers to build emergency shelters for the homeless and those displaced by natural disasters. Architects are also taking note. For instance, In Palm Springs, California, Mighty Buildings is using 3D printing to construct an entire city of houses. The neighbourhood will consist of 15 homes with cutting-edge environmental and technical features.

In India, A partnership between a construction company and a charity has resulted in the country’s first 3D-printed home being built in Chennai. According to Tvasta Manufacturing Solutions, it is approximately 56m2 in size and was designed with efficiency in mind.

The house was not only completed in just 5 days but it was also 30 percent cheaper to make the finished building with 3D printing vis-à-vis conventional construction techniques. Another great side-effect was the significantly less waste generated in the process.

The road ahead

Presently, there are still many challenges with using 3D printing or additive manufacturing to create finished products. Unless these challenges are resolved, mainstream adoption is unlikely to take place.  By 2025, analysts predict that 36 million new housing units will be needed in the world’s 20 largest cities and the greater adoption of 3D printing could go a long way in resolving these challenges.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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