Google “3D printing and construction” and you’ll find lots of articles, mainly from 2018, all waxing lyrical about the possibilities of this revolutionary medium. The technicalities of this development are, on the face of it, quite straightforward: super-size printers use a composite and concrete mixture that is thicker than normal concrete and which is self-supporting as it sets. This video shows how it works:
The first attempt to create a 3D printed wall was by Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of South Carolina in 2004. Since then, the Professor has spent the last decade working on a gigantic 3D printer that can print an entire home, including insulation and drywall.
Contractors and architects are now starting to construct 3D residential buildings and offices across the world and the concrete 3D printing market is expected to be worth $56.4m in 2021. Although it is currently in its infancy, some really innovative 3D printing projects are being developed and the technology is expected to make rapid strides in the next few years.
Examples of the way in which 3D printing is being used include the world's first 3D-printed office. This is in Dubai and it was printed and installed over 17 days by 18 people. The printer extruded a mixture of cement and other materials designed and made in the UAE and the US. It was printed layer by layer and costs £95,000, with additional costs for interior and exterior design components. And it’s not just houses and offices that can benefit from 3D printing. A few weeks ago, the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge was unveiled in Amsterdam.
The four-bedroom house shown in the video link above is in Nantes, France. Although the printing took only 54 hours, it took another four months to add the windows, doors and roof. However, it’s now home to a family, who presumably were content to pay the £176,000 asking price. According to the housebuilder (house-printer?) this is 20% less than the equivalent, traditionally-built house would have cost.
The fact that the 3D method allows architects to customise houses for clients is another benefit but I think that it’s the price that will be most significant. That 20% saving cited above is nothing compared to the claims made by example, Winsun, a Chinese company, which says it has built ten 3D printed houses in one day at the cost of only $5000 per house. In the USA, Icon, a 3D printing start-up from Austin, Texas, aims to build 600-800 sq. ft. houses in less than 24 hours, at an approximate cost of $4,000 each.
Given the well-documented lack of houses in the UK, especially for first-time buyers, this technology could become very popular in the near future. The affordability and speed of construction of these dwellings, plus the reduced cost of labour and materials involved, makes 3D housing a very attractive proposition indeed.
Linsey Toland, Manager, Peace Recruitment