The Future of 3D Printing in Construction | Victorville Murphy Construction

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, first emerged as a new technology in 1981. Since then, 3D printers have moved into the mainstream and are now available in price ranges making them accessible to individuals and small businesses.

While 3D printers are now primarily used for producing prototype models and the rapid production of parts and products, this technology is also making headway into the construction industry where whole buildings are now being printed by gigantic 3D printers, from the foundation up.

How 3 D Printing Works in Construction

Current construction methods for building houses and commercial buildings build structures stick by stick or brick by brick. Alternately, carpenters build wooden forms into which concrete is poured. 3D printing in construction works differently.

First pioneered in China, construction 3D printers are enormous in comparison to their counterparts at 3D print shops and those available for sale at retailers.

Construction 3D printers consist of a large frame as big as the building itself. The frame has overhead tracks where a nozzle moves about, making the nozzle accessible to all areas within the footprint of the building site.

The nozzle is connected to a pump similar to those used for pumping concrete. However, the material used in 3D construction printers is not regular concrete. Instead, a mixture of ground aggregate and adhesive is pumped and delivered through the nozzle in layers, building up the walls, floors, and roof of the structure. Computer software guides the nozzle according to the architect’s plans.

Pioneers of 3D construction printers are experimenting with a variety of materials for the mix, including recycled, ground concrete, mine tailings, and glass. The end result is a substance with as much, or more, tensile strength as concrete, making this construction method suitable for areas like Los Angeles which are prone to earthquakes.

Printing a building allows for easily incorporating contoured walls and rounded surfaces, and it is even possible for the printer to incorporate chases for electrical and plumbing lines.

One advantage of 3D printing over other construction methods is the speed at which a building is constructed. The Chinese company Winsun has completed a demonstration project, building ten small 3D houses in a single day. Other projects have produced commercial buildings and warehouses in record time.

While 3D printing has not yet become commercially available from Southern California builders, it is a cutting-edge construction technology to watch for in the future.