A Guide to the Future: 3D Printing and Construction

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There’s a lot to be said about beautiful food.

I enjoy making cakes and squirting out elaborate icing decorations. But some (okay, all) of my designs haven’t been anything to write home about.

If only there was an automated machine to make all the parts of a homemade castle or Alice in Wonderland cake!

Printing_with_a_3D_printer_at_Makers_Party_Bangalore_2013_11

3D cake printing is already taking hold across America. I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these contraptions and build my own scrumptious creations. But 3D printing doesn’t stop at cakes. From textiles to manufacturing to national defense, 3D printing is slated to upheave every industry across the globe.

And it’s most profoundly changing the construction industry.

Many construction pros are alarmed by the changes. Mechanization essentially killed farming in the United States; in 1900, farming made up 38% of America’s workforce. Today, farmers account for less than one percent. The same consequences have the potential to obliterate American construction jobs. Even as experts predict that construction will “take off,” 3D printing has the potential to wreck future employment opportunities that arise from new contracts.

But maybe it’s time for construction to enter the automation age. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a University of Southern California professor who helped build a construction 3D printing company called Contour Crafting, said during a Ted Talk, “If you look around yourself, pretty much everything is made automatically today—your shoes, your clothes, home appliances, your car… The only thing that is still built by hand are these buildings.”

He adds, “Construction as we know it today is wasteful, costly, and often over budget.”

Cost Savings on Supplies

For construction managers, 3D printing might be a godsend. For example, WinSun, a China-based 3D printing construction company, “expects 3D printing will save construction companies up to 50% on the cost” of building a house.

Greener Construction

Part of these savings will appeal to environmentalists and humanitarians. For example, Wealth Daily expects that “The use of lumber in the home’s framework would be spared.” That’s great news for “green” home builders (and a looming threat to the lumber industry).

Global Development

3D printing also provides a cheap outlet to create homes for people in developing countries and for people in destitute areas.  It’s an opportunity to create shelter for those who could not previously afford it.

 A 3D printed house built in Shanghai. Source: Treehugger.com

A 3D printed house built in Shanghai. Source: Treehugger.com

Speedier Project Planning

Furthermore, 3D printing will affect the design stage of construction. Modelers can quickly “print” a mockup of a building or a house, making it easy for construction companies and their customers to experiment and tinker with design ideas. These mockups could also help construction companies identify flaws and pain points before construction even begins—a potential avenue to prevent project delays.

Clearer Client Expectations

Finally, 3D printing can help build a stronger relationship between construction managers and their customers. Now, more than ever before, customers with no architectural background can communicate their wants and needs before a project begins.

Of course, 3D printing won’t solve all of construction’s problems. The industry still needs to recruit young talent to ensure its survival in the future. And 3D printing won’t entirely replace the need for a human architect to figure out the logistics of planning and constructing a building (which is why, thankfully, there’s construction management software). But in time, it will make construction more environmentally friendly and more profitable.

I, personally, can’t wait for it to take off.

More?

Do you have experience with 3D printing in construction? What are your thoughts and projections? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Looking for Construction Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Construction Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Rachel Burger

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Rachel is a content strategist for Targetprocess, a project management tool dedicated to scalable and accessible visual management. She specializes in project management tips, tools, and tricks, and continues to play a foundational role in recognizing and strategizing for the future of Agile in the workplace. On the rare occasion Rachel isn't writing, she's reading, hiking, jogging, or spending time with her friends and family.

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Is there any commercially house 3d printer in the market?

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