top of page

3D Printing in construction: Prospects and Challenges

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

The construction industry generates approximately $10 trillion in annual revenue, accounting for roughly 6% of global GDP. Indeed, engineering and construction are essential chevaliers of world economy and growth. Hence construction firms are always looking for new techniques to increase the output while lowering costs.

3D printing is the new solution for these issues.

3D printing, often known as additive manufacturing (AM), is one of the newest types of construction technology that has been introduced to the industry. Today, construction is being pushed towards automation to reduce labour; minimize on-site construction time; increase production; improve architectural freedom and lower costs. Furthermore, 3D printing contributes to environmental sustainability.

3D printing (3DP) is a layered material joining method that uses 3D model data to create diverse structures and complicated geometric patterns without the use of tooling, dies, or fixtures. The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) define AM as "the process of combining materials to construct objects from 3D model data, usually layer by layer." With its potential for automation, formwork elimination, construction waste reduction, and geometrical precision enhancement, 3DP has a lot of promise for construction applications.



3D-printed concrete, its uses, processes, advantages, limitations


A brief history of 3D printing technology

The first commercial 3D printing machine was built in 1986 by Charles Hull, an American scientist recognized as the "Father of 3DP". The experimental application of 3DP in the building industry began in the late 1990s. Existing 3DP research focuses on advanced materials (e.g., cementitious materials, polymer materials, and metal materials, processes (e.g., contour crafting, D-shape, and concrete printing), and implementation methods (e.g., off-site/on-site fabrication, hybrid techniques, and multiple materials). Novel shapes, topology optimization, bespoke parts, and in-situ repair are some of the construction applications.

3D printing techniques

AM employs a variety of manufacturing techniques. Contour Crafting, D-shape, Concrete Printing, and Shotcrete 3D printing are the four major 3D printing processes among them. Contour Crafting (CC) technology is the most promising 3D printing technique utilized in the construction industry. Material is poured layer by layer in this technology, yet the entire process takes place on-site. This technology offers a huge chance for construction process automation by using a 3D printer that can print a whole house on-site.

Benefits of 3D printing

The major advantages of 3D printing are explained as follows:

  1. Time savings: The time taken to finish the building can be drastically reduced.

  2. Cost savings

  3. 3D printing gives you more geometric freedom to create structures that would not be possible otherwise.

  4. Sustainability: 3D Printing allows for the creation of environmentally friendly designs and structures.

  5. 3D printing decreases waste generated during the manufacturing process.

  6. It also decreases the need for formwork.

  7. Enhanced safety in the building sites as the printers will be capable of performing the majority of the hazardous and dangerous work

  8. Time-efficient: wet construction procedures are eliminated, resulting in fewer material wastes and less time spent constructing buildings