3D Printing: A Viable Building Material for Residential and Commercial Construction?

3D printing for constructionAmong the more compelling and potentially useful of recent technological advances is 3D printing. On a small scale, this technique has been used to produce objects such as architectural models, medical devices and parts for manufacturing. Advances in the uses of 3D printing are happening quickly as the technology improves. Home construction and the construction industry appear to be the most recent areas in which 3D printing could bring about dramatic changes and innovations.

In Amsterdam, Dutch architectural firm Dus Architects is involved in building a full-scale structure intended to prove the usefulness of 3D printing in architecture and construction. The 13-room building will be constructed of printed plastic forms with concrete supports, according to Digital Trends.

Smaller 3D printers use plastic, polymer or other material to construct objects one layer at a time. The plastic is applied using a specialized nozzle that gradually builds up the three-dimensional object. A computer controls the movement of the nozzle, the thickness of the layers and other important features.

The 3D printer used to produce the building in Amsterdam works on a similar principle, but on a much larger scale. The industrial-sized printer will produce individual rooms for the project, which will then be locked together to create the building. Even furniture for the building can be created using this technology.

Although the technology for printing homes and building is still being refined, the Dutch construction project has the potential to show how industrial-scale 3D printing can be used efficiently and practically in the construction industry. 3D printing could reduce errors and waste in the building process. There could also be little need for the costly transportation of large, heavy building components. Printed plastic homes could theoretically be recycled when no longer needed.

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