Innovation in the construction business has taken a whole new turn by adopting the technology of 3D printing. The basic premise is to use a robotic 3D printer that uses concrete as its ink to construct buildings from the ground up. Layer by layer, the machine prints a concrete building with all of the necessary door and window openings. In many places around the world, the cost of housing has increased due to demand, and as the world’s population grows, rapid production of housing at a low cost will become essential.
Construction 3D printers have been created, tested, and implemented by a few companies, including Contour Crafting Corporation, CyBe Construction, and Apis Cor. Contour Crafting has created a variety of 3D printers, with their latest development a lightweight machine capable of printing a concrete building a structure in one day. Because it is lightweight, the printer can be transported with a standard-sized truck and is made easy to deploy where housing is needed. This method is extremely useful in events of natural disasters or charitable housing projects. The 3D printers can also be used with little need for workers, which is used to cut project time and costs. CyBe Construction uses a similar concrete 3D printing method, but at a larger scale. CyBe completed an 1800 square foot research laboratory with their technology, and took three weeks to complete.
In a demonstration video by Apis Cor, they show the process of building a house with 3D printing technology, all in a mere 24 hours. Although the initial build of the structure is fast, in pre-construction the concrete (or the “ink”) must be tested. In terms of quality control, the use of concrete can be tested using wireless smart sensors to monitor the strength and hardening of the 3D printed concrete. This will ultimately save even more project time and costs, as resorting to traditional concrete testing methods like the break test can take days/weeks.
This is only the start to the construction industry implementing 3D printing technology. The world’s population is expected to reach 11 billion by 2100, which means cost and time saving technology will be frequently created and implemented, compared to traditional methods of construction. Concrete housing is an excellent alternative as concrete structures pose as more reliable and durable. With more concrete housing being built, reduced risk of mold and pests, house fires, and the ability to better withstand time are just a few of the pros of 3D printed concrete housing.