One of the key challenges with 3D printed concrete structures is adding non-concrete parts. 3D concrete printers require human intervention to build overhangs since the concrete cures slowly and have no stiffness. In case you get around this, then you can produce a 3D printed house with cutouts for electrical and plumbing components to be added later.
Therefore, a house can be 3D printed to include plumbing and electrical components.
The best way to view a 3D printed concrete house is that it’s very similar to a building constructed using concrete blocks. This is very easy if you simply compare the two visually. Anything that would prove tricky to perform with a block’s concrete wall would also be tricky to perform to a 3D printed structure.
For more on this, check out our post “How Do Electricity and Plumbing Work With 3d Printed Houses?“
The Construction of 3D print houses is covered in detail in How much does a 3D printed house cost? and Do 3D Printed Houses Use Rebar? and Is a 3D Printed House Safe? The Good, The Bad & What One Must Know
Possible time and cost saving in MEP provisions in 3D Print Houses
3D printing technology enables the production of individual pieces in small and medium, profitable batches. Compared to the conventional manufacturing methods such as casting, turning, or milling, the production costs in 3D printing are not dependent on the component complexity. Where complex specialized solutions or expensive tools were previously necessary, possibly representing a behind the schedule risk factor, 3D printing technology is now the only solution to trouble-free production.
With integrated functionality, 3D printing within the construction industry has contributed hugely to cost-saving by saving on material and labor. The external geometry with additive manufacturing is almost solely the determining cost factor. Complexity plays a negligible role in production time and cost. With 3D printing technology, you can also save on the weight and material required by designing lightweight structures. For instance, intelligently integrated functionality with a hinge or springs joints reduces the administrative costs, as well as the number of components required.
3D printing construction technology promises a vast range of benefits. Homes are being completed in days and months as with the other conventional methods. This time saving equates to cost savings equates to huge cost savings to builders in the construction industry, in terms of operations and labor. These huge savings are also passed to the buyers or consumers.
It is predicted that there will be about a 90% reduction in waste within the construction industry since the only extra resource that will be required in the construction process will be supported during 3D printing. There will be no need to use the rebar.
3D printing technology leads to various economic benefits within the industrial manufacturing chain in two key categories: design optimization and supply chain. 3D printing technology within the construction industry exploits potential in areas like; reduced assembly times and weight, faster time to market, advantageous high mix-low volume productions in simple product customizations. These are the key drivers of reduced production cost within 3D printing technology.
You simply need to discover where and how you can optimize your production with 3D printing technology, to help you reduce your operational costs and build a workable foundation for your future operations.
How can 3D printing technology reduce cost and time during production development?
For businesses, the process of developing and bringing new products to the market is unquestionably essential. However, it can also be expensive, slow, and frustrating in some cases. The time is taken to develop a new product and R&D costs mostly limit small businesses to being capable of only rolling out one or two new products per year. This not only reduces the product expansion rate but also makes it very difficult for small-scale businesses to remain competitive in the industry with their larger players.
Fortunately, this hostile picture of product development is drastically changing with the increased use of 3D printing technology by various businesses, including the construction industry.
When put against conventional construction methods, 3D concrete printing method has a vast range of advantages. Some of these key benefits include:
With 3D concrete printing, builders and architects can inject novelty and creativity with ease in their designs, as the technology can be used to build asymmetric or intricate designs.
3D concrete printing enables engineers to create extruded surfaces and varying shapes under tight schedules with very minimal chances of human error encountered. This has been made possible due to the accurate deposition of material with state-of-the-art equipment.
The new mixes of concrete when integrated with foam will display thermal mass capabilities similar to that found in the traditional concrete.
More advancements in the concrete mix formula comparable to this can make 3D concrete printing technology possible for mass-scale production as we forge into the near future.
The printer used for 3D concrete printing deposits a precise amount of cement at a time, lowering the CO2 emissions. This aids the industry in shifting towards sustainable, environment-friendly practices.
The construction space or industry is ranked the 7th most dangerous professional industry in the U.S. This accounts for 21% of the total deaths annually.
3D concrete printing technology replaces the need for many onsite labors with automated construction controlled by a few. Therefore, dangerous jobs that impact on-site safety of workers can be eliminated entirely from the construction process.
Unlike the traditional construction techniques, 3D concrete printing doesn’t require workers to fill molds manually, essentially removing the need for frameworks and castings.
Engineers can also ensure that they are within the set budget by saving on material, labor costs, saving on time, and operating at a constant rate.
These factors when combined make 3D concrete printing cost-effective.
The ability to construct under tight schedules also makes 3D concrete printing one of the best solutions for construction accommodation structures during crises caused by natural disasters such as floods.
The use of hardened cement paste, that is resistant to cracking, may also enhance resilience to 3D printed concrete, ranking the best for mass scale rehabilitation projects.
Limitations and inconveniences of 3D concrete printing
- Legal obstacles
The legal framework required for 3D concrete printing is apparently limited. This has created a lot of uncertainty regarding the rights of manufacturers, constructors, and owners.
The regulations require further development on various topics such as social implications, environmental impact, the outcome on labor industry, and safety.
Apparently, it is an uncharted sector when viewed with legal lenses.
- Unsuitable for all environments
The concrete mixture reacts in an unstable manner when subjected to higher temperatures due to its hydration process.
This causes a problem when pumping the concrete mixture in smooth layers under extreme temperature or weather conditions. For instance, 3D concrete printed samples tested in desert regions have resulted in poor outcomes.
However, extensive research is being carried out on batter formulas since 3D concrete printing is the future of affordable housing.
- Limitations due to size of equipment
For 3D concrete printing technology, printers should be of substantial size, preferably, larger than the project. This may call for custom-made printing equipment tailor-made to the project at hand, which may be costly.
Apparently, 3D concrete technology is still in the testing stage where several prototypes of equipment, techniques, and formulas are being tested.
Since, equipment is the costliest component of any 3D concrete printing project, producing automated machinery is obviously an expensive investment.
Therefore, larger constructions with 3D concrete printing technology are not viable, making this technology more suitable for smaller projects only.
What does the future hold for 3D printing? 3D printing technology could transform the design industry by allowing new ideas and shapes to come to life.
The rational progress is to incorporate more features, like plumbing, electricity, and insulation during the printing process., making the process efficient and turnkey.
3D concrete printing within the construction industry helps save effort, material and time compared to the traditional construction techniques.
However, it is vital to note that 3D printers are still incapable of printing big, fully functional houses.
Only the walls and frames of the house are built using 3D printing technology; other elements, such as electricity, plumbing, or windows must be installed separately.
However, 3D concrete printers may also be used to print benches, bridges, or even outdoor decorations and pools.