3D Printing: A New Kind of Construction Process

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In 2018, Fuseproject, a 3D-printing firm based in San Francisco, announced their newest endeavor in building a whole neighborhood for a small community of 50 farmers and weavers in Latin America. Fuseproject worked in El Salvador with New Story, a housing non-profit, and ICON,  a construction technologies company, . 

Within a 24-hour period, the 3D-printers will make each home unique from the others to avoid the birdhouse effect, as well as provide safety against environmental and physical danger for families living on less than $200 per month. Moreover, Icon has launched their new printer, the Vulcan II, which is able to build a 650 square-foot home for $4,000 in less than a day.

Canada has also joined the movement to integrate 3D printing technology into the construction industry: The Conference Board of Canada published a new research series last fall that takes a look into emerging 3D printing technologies that are useful for Canada’s northern and Indigenous communities. Essentially, the series starts the conversation on whether 3D printing construction can improve quality of life throughout Canada.

“…to build a new public housing unit in Nunavut can cost over $500,000, which is three times the cost of constructing the same unit in Toronto… 3D-printed homes could be one-fifth of that figure…”

Revolutionary Building for the North: 3D Printing Construction highlights the significant costs and time saved when implementing 3D printing technology into construction projects. While the researchers admit there is more to learn from this up-and-coming technological innovation, they are assured that 3D printing, especially in construction, will be seen in the very near future.

For example, to build a new public housing unit in Nunavut can cost over $500,000, which is three times the cost of constructing the same unit in Toronto. The report estimates that the cost of 3D-printed homes could be one-fifth of that figure, and that it would take considerably less time since a 400 square-foot space could be assembled in the span of 24 hours.

The process of mixing and pouring concrete has remained unchanged for the past half a century, but 3D printing on the whole is an attempt to reshape the entire construction business”

For the past couple of years, people either in the field of technology or construction have concurred that 3D printing has to be the next step to reform the industry for the new age. Frank Hoefflin, Sika AG’s CTO, claims that the construction industry has had “the lowest productivity over the past 80 years compared to any other industry,” partially due to the lack of innovation proposed for the basic materials used in the process, such as concrete. The process of mixing and pouring concrete has remained unchanged for the past half a century, but 3D printing on the whole is an attempt to reshape the entire construction business.

Despite popular belief, integrating 3D-printing technology into the construction sphere will not eliminate job positions, but rather expand the job market to engineers, architects, and construction managers. From operating the machines to enhancing the technology, people from various backgrounds and knowledge bases will be necessary as the construction industry changes with the times.

Welcoming 3D-printing technologies into the field of construction also aids with fighting the climate crisis. Steel, concrete, and wood are the most common building materials used and  unfortunately, have a negative ecological impact. In fact, certain reports approximate that up to 5% of the worldwide total of CO2 emissions stem from cement production alone. Concrete, furthermore, is known for its limited potential for reuse and renewal. 

“3D printed homes, along with any other building, can be built in Canada even in the harshest climate states”

With all of these benefits, Montreal is also trying its hand in 3D-printed construction; for example, the non-for-profit group, Print Our Home is aiming to build healthy and viable homes that will use local, standard, and eco-friendly materials.

All in all, 3D printed homes, along with any other building, can be built in Canada even in the harshest climate states. A previous success of 3D printing includes the construction of a 3D printed home in Russia in the dead of winter in 2016 and with the promise of strong heating systems, lead experts whole-heartedly believe that future projects in 3D printing and construction are possible in all parts of Canada.

With the innovation of 3D printing into construction, perhaps the city of Montreal will have (much needed) improvements in the construction process that all residents have to deal with.

 

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