Three-dimensional printed concrete (3DPC) is a “new” construction method that utilises concrete or mortar mixtures in an extrusion method using algorithm-controlled specialist nozzles. The system, also called building additive manufacturing (BAM), produces layer upon layer in a topographical-type rendition of the required structure with materials fed into the printing devices from modular silos.
As the industry becomes more sophisticated with each new build, how does it fit in with other methodologies?
Why Use 3DPC/BAM?
Over the years, the specialist nozzles have become more versatile in their applications and smoothing or detailing wall surfaces can now be combined into the initial process. The industry sector that supports 3DPC claims that the construction outcomes are frequently faster, safer and more affordable. A very important claim is that material waste is significantly reduced.
While 3DPC is growing in acceptance, it is still firmly positioned in the niche category of construction. The methodology still needs greater trust from consumers, adaptions from the trades and new machinery and training to be invested in by construction companies.
Achieving Greater Acceptance
As various building materials become more expensive, the appeal or economic viability of 3DPC increases. Added to this, with more versatile printers arriving on the market, construction companies can now apply the method to multi-storey buildings. Hybrid projects also show that 3DPC can be successfully combined with traditional building methods.
Hybrid Housing Estates
An American company, Lennar Homes, started with a one-hundred housing estate this year in Texas, using a hybrid of 3DPC printing for the ground-level walls and traditional methods for the upper levels.
One of the printers that can execute such a project is a 4.5 MT Vulcan printer that can produce 3.2 m high walls that are 11 m long, printed at 25 cm per second. The proprietor of the printer claims that it can produce safe structures up to 278 sqm in size.
One of the organisations investing in this methodology is NASA, as they aim to 3D print all human requirements on destination planets.
The Future Of 3DCP
All construction industry-related roleplayers are asking the same questions:
- What does the future hold for 3DPC?
- Will it gain an economically viable foothold in the commercial, industrial, hospitality or domestic construction industries?
- Are masonry, shuttered concrete or wood-frame methods under threat?
- Is it more environmentally friendly?
- Will it always co-exist with traditional methodologies, or will the industry speed up its adoption of 3DPC?
Only retrospect will accurately answer these questions. For now, the limitless design options will be very appealing to architects and interior designers. The ease with which organic shapes can be achieved will be attractive to certain design tastes and easy customisation will be appealing to other design groups. If the low-cost claims prove to be true across the board, then this will also drive greater acceptance. Lastly, proof of resilience and safety compliance will be the most important milestone to achieve.