Future Construction Technologies: The Role of 3D Printing in the Construction Industry

Lawrence Kim

Recently, a Chinese company designed and constructed houses using giant 3D printers. Clearly, the possibilities are endless in construction technologies. 3D printed houses offer profound implications for housing customization and affordability. Read on to learn more about what role 3D printing will play in the future of construction industry.

How does 3D printing in the construction industry work?

The process starts by digitally modeling a plan/blueprint of an object to be printed in the design program. After this, the design program 'slices' the object into a number of layers. It then serially sends the information to the printer. Printing is done using super-size printers.

These giant printers use a unique concrete and composite mixture. The special mixture is thicker compared to the regular concrete. This allows it to self-support as it sets. The whole process will result to a three dimensional object, similar to the design of the digital model.

What does 3D printing mean to the future of housing industry?

The capacity to print modular components will ultimately allow greater customization in terms of design. It also means that people in the construction industry will enjoy ease of mass production and convenience. The idea of "mass-customization" means that even buyers can customize their homes prior to going in to production. This is the same experience as ordering a new car.

3D print houses will eventually result to a new aesthetic. What does this mean? It means that the physical construction process will forever continue to evolve. More importantly, 3D technology shall give designers more control to their works. In future, smart designers will use this technology to come up with different approaches that will positively transform the entire industry.

What about building materials?

For sure, building materials of the future will be greener and more intelligent. They will take their cue from the current scientific technologies. Concrete will be self-healing. Future concrete will have nutrients that upon activation by water will predate on calcium lactate. The end result of this process will be lactite, a primary element of limestone. The self-healing concrete could eliminate expensive maintenance associated with concrete cracks.

Indeed, 3D printing will have a big role to play in the construction industry in the years to come. It will offer new methods of industrial construction, lower labor costs, quicker construction, and new performance standards. Most importantly, there will be a significant reduction in waste because of on-site modifications.