October 11, 2018

The Implications of 3D Printing on Building and Construction

by Erin Johnson

There are numerous trends impacting the ways we design and build the structures we live and work in today. New, stringent building codes and the increasingly important need for sustainability around the world demand them.

Here’s an intriguing trend: Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing. It’s something we’ve talked about on the blog before, but it’s a technology that’s continuing to evolve. And so are the ways that building and construction professionals are deploying it.

See this recent bit of news from Phys.org, which highlights how the use of 3D printing is changing in the European architectural space. French construction futurist Zoubeir Lafhaj speculates that while most current 3D printed construction projects utilize concrete, the future could unfold differently.

Per Phys.org:

Plastic is a good alternative because it is more environmentally friendly than concrete, Lafhaj says, but it also has another advantage. In dense urban environments, such as cities like Tokyo, it can be much easier and cheaper to import and move around. "In some areas in Japan there are not a lot of streets where you can construct new buildings," he explains. "They need new materials that can be brought in without big machines." 

It's an interesting piece worth reading in full, and it further notes the possibilities of automating construction with 3D printing and the ability to eliminate waste on the jobsite by manufacturing exactly what is needed. With sustainability an increasingly common goal, it’s not unreasonable to think we’ll see techniques like this take greater footholds soon. Will one gigantic 3D printer be spitting out an entire house? Probably—but architects are seeing additive manufacturing’s potential to mass produce customizable prefabricated architecture and more.

As for direct impact on the fenestration industry, we’ve seen strong promise around parts and components prototyping. The same is true for industries like aerospace, medical and automotive, where the search for lighter and cheaper parts is never-ending. Fenestration professionals have felt some pressure from the rising cost of raw materials this year, but potential alternatives could make some headway soon.  And there are other implications. For instance, glaziers and installers working in the field may need to begin familiarizing themselves with burgeoning construction techniques in order to maintain their competitive edge.

Additive manufacturing is a potentially revolutionary technology, and yet we’ve only seen hints of what it can do, it’s worth our continued attention.

Questions or comments? Contact me directly at Erin.Johnson@Quanex.com.

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Posted: October 11, 2018 by Erin Johnson Filed under: design, manufacturing, technology