Architects and construction companies are putting a new tool to good use: 3D printing with concrete. Many people in the industry are finding it to be a quick, cost-effective way of building concrete components and even full homes. But what is 3D printing, and how can it be used for concrete? Will we see 3D printers at construction sites any time soon?
What Is 3D Printing?
3D printing is the construction of a three-dimensional model using a scanner-like tool that follows a digital design. The printer slowly releases the material layer by layer using the design blueprint until the model is complete. While many people can buy 3D printers for their homes or use them at digital labs, these are mostly limited to plastic and metal. Now, 3D printing includes heavier materials like concrete, and some in the industry are trying out this tool’s design potential.
While 3D printers can be complicated bits of technology, they all follow a simple construction method that builds the model up in layers. They work with three axes: the X-axis is the length of the rails that help the printing part move back and forth; the Y-axis is the distance between rails on opposite sides of the printer; the Z-axis is the height of the pillars which carry the nozzle higher as the project moves up. As you can probably tell, 3D printers that handle concrete must be larger than the conventional options, which is an obstacle for most companies.
How Is 3D Printing Being Used In Concrete Design?
Currently, concrete 3D printers are mostly found in the design stage. These tools can be for laying out a large concrete project, and designers can make a 3D-printed model right at the construction spot. Companies no longer have to make moulds to bring their structures to life, and this saves a lot of time and money. The modern building design has made features like exposed concrete walls and geometrically complex roofs more popular.
These are smaller models of the concrete printer; the potential for larger 3D printers can make them ideal for the construction of rooms, concrete components, and even entire small homes! These larger machines can follow the outline of the blueprint, releasing concrete and other materials like insulation in back and forth movements. One Russian company has developed and used a concrete 3D printer that could build a house in only 24 hours.
What Are The Advantages And Disadvantages Of 3D Printing?
3D printers could pose many advantages for concrete workers. These advantages include efficiency, lower labour cost, and less construction waste compared to traditional construction techniques. However, most of these advantages are theoretical because very few models are cost-effective for regular concrete projects! Even if it does become less expensive, concrete 3D printing will not replace most traditional building techniques in the near future, and even ones used to make full homes still require concrete specialists on-site.
As it stands, 3D printing is limited and can make only simple homes. However, some of the advantages of the technology are undeniable, especially in the realm of designing concrete projects. Designing and building a home can be an expensive and time-consuming task, and that is why concrete 3D printing is an appealing tool for constructors and architects.