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3D Printing in Construction
3D printing is all the rage these days, and for good reason. It enables the fast fabrication of nearly any product or part without the need to conduct extensive searches or pay a premium. As printers come down in price, more construction contractors are beginning to adopt this technology to good use. Here is a look at how 3D printing in construction stands to transform the industry.
Novelty No More
Not so long ago, 3D printing was a novelty, not just in the construction industry, but in general. This is no longer the case. The building and contracting industries are now adopting the new technology to produce specialized and niche parts, and to increase flexibility in design. The new technology is cost-effective and much faster than the old ways and products can be produced that are far more accurate and customized than ever before.
3D Printed Buildings
In China, the new technology is even being used to create entire buildings. While one company is using a custom material whose components are not being revealed, the buildings are exceptionally inexpensive to create (less than 10 percent of the cost of traditionally-constructed buildings), which results in astounding profit margins. 3D printers the size of basketball courts are used to create these structures, which the company claims cost a mere $5,000 USD to produce.
Even the common component for 3D printing in construction is inexpensive and sturdy, however. A company in Dubai is utilizing this technology with an “ink” that is comprised of green construction waste and cement to create walls that are sturdier than traditional concrete. The first 3D printed office is currently under construction in that city.
This new common composite ink carries a number of tangible benefits. It is able to support itself while it sets. This results in more flexibility in design and a reduction in traditional constraints regarding the need for specialized support structures. It allows, among other things, for hollow curved structures.
This means that less material is used and an exceptional savings in construction costs. Waste, too, is reduced by up to 60 percent. Labor costs for these structures are down by up to 80 percent and production time is reduced by up to 70 percent. These savings are astounding and in the end, while this means greater profits for contractors, it also means the savings will likely be passed on to buyers, resulting in greatly reduced housing costs.
Safety concerns are always an issue, but with reduced labor, time and waste, it stands to reason that safer construction sites could result. What this means for the contractors insurance industry remains to be seen, but it is a foregone conclusion that carrying proper insurance policies is still vital to mitigate risk and liability issues.