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What Are the Benefits of 3D Printing in Construction?

3D Printed construction

Casey Dunn courtesy of ICON

3D printing is a technology that might still be in its infancy on a mainstream scale but offers infinite potential for a range of industries. While it might already be shifting the goalposts in the design and creative sectors though, the future could see everything from aerospace and medical to engineering sectors using the technology. Right now, however, it’s the construction industry that is perhaps the sector that stands to benefit the most.

The benefits of using 3D printing technology for construction

Faster construction – While 3D printing is currently a rather long-winded process when it comes to printing anything larger than a figurine, the technology is always improving. In the coming years, it’s thought that 3D printing on a larger scale will become an exponentially speedier process that could accomplish in hours what would once have taken days.

More affordable construction – Of course, as 3D printing is a largely automated process it requires fewer team members and building materials, which is going to save a lot of money for construction companies in the short and long term.

More environmentally friendly – The construction sector is one of the most wasteful in the world and it has a rather poor public perception as a result. As 3D printing uses very little waste, however, and prints materials to order, it could seriously help improve public perception. Not only that, but many 3D printers use locally sourced materials and can even recycle unused materials.

Reduced safety risks – Construction can be incredibly hazardous work, but the risks are minimal with 3D printing when compared to traditional ways of building. However, personal protective equipment such as masks and hi-vis jackets is still necessary in most cases.

New markets – 3D printing leaves more room for the unconventional, which could open completely fresh avenues for the construction space. For example, in locations where poor seasonal weather inhibits building at certain times of the year, pre-printed modular buildings can be assembled in days rather than weeks.

 House built using the 3D printing method

Potential downsides of using 3D printing in technology

Cost of entry – Of course, the initial cost of setting up a 3D printing infrastructure is going to be the biggest initial drawback. The equipment requires the use of high-powered lasers and the machines themselves are still prohibitively expensive. So, it’s all about making a big initial investment for serious long-term gains.

Quality control – New technology is, by its very nature, still finding its feet. While 3D printing for construction can reduce human error it also can replicate errors and create mammoth mistakes.

Qualified staff – Right now there’s a bit of a skills gap when it comes to 3D printing. Until more people are trained to design using the latest advanced computer models and operate and maintain 3D printing equipment it might be better to hold off until the technology catches up with its own ambition.