3D printing is starting to revolutionize manufacturing in many industries like aerospace, automobile, defence, medicine, high technology manufacturing, fashion, too rooms etc. It is expected that in the coming decades, it will have a deep impact in the manufacture of building materials as well as construction of buildings. For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3D_printing
In India, some firms already offer 3D printing services for building scale models of projects. Such firms include iKix 3D Prints (www.ikix.in), think3D (www.think3d.in), Fine Art Scale Models (www.fineartscalemodels.com) etc. 3D printing is ideal for manufacturing such low volume, highly customized products. 3D printing can bring down the completion time and cost of scale models to an extent that it can be widely used by architects, interior decorators, builders, developers and contractors for applications like:-
• Showcasing innovative designs
• Design evaluations
• Sales presentations
• Customer presentations or model home walk through
• Showcase projects in events, exhibitions etc.
• Customer gifts
Research is already on to use 3D printing technology in other aspects of construction. One of the limitations of current 3D printing technology is that they can only print parts ‘in the box’ i.e. the chamber inside the printing machine itself. They cannot print large parts or members which are bigger than the largest available 3D printing machine. Technology is now being developed to print ‘outside the box’; machines that are not limited by their printing chamber. MX3D, a company based in the Netherlands, is building a steel bridge of 15 meter span across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in Amsterdam. In such cases, robots are designed to move freely in an outdoor environment. The robot is not limited in space within a 3D printing machine. Winsun, a Chinese company, claims to have printed apartment buildings and villas using their own proprietary technology already.
Other technologies being developed to print complete buildings and structures include ‘Contour Crafting’. This technology aims to use locally available materials to print entire homes in time span of 24 hours! The technology can even print articles within the home simultaneously like wardrobes, chairs and tables.
It would be interesting to watch this technology evolve and ultimately revolutionize the way we build structures. It appears as though it is a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.
Contour Crafting: http://www.contourcrafting.org/