Buildings are something that gives us immense love, care, protection, and a place of our own. We need buildings for everything we do in life, house, offices, schools, colleges, banquet halls, universities, and whatnot. Recently, the world has seen a deadly pandemic, several cyclones, and heavy rainfall, in this situation buildings are no less than heaven. We need construction every time and thus it becomes important to make the process easier, cost-effective, durable, and modern. The 3D building construction approach is a new addition to the architecture field that has been recognized for bringing visible changes by the computerized technology and accuracy it uses. This is a big step taken in the modernization of the construction sector and we must know how it works.
What is 3D construction?
3D construction is a computer-controlled technology that uses 3D printing techniques to fabricate construction components and buildings. 3D printing is also referred to as Additive Manufacturing wherein specific programs and automatic machines are used to build sequential layers of construction materials to create three-dimensional buildings.
3D printed buildings resemble the traditionally built ones when seen from a distance, however on close examination it seems that there are no bricks, instead, the building is created by layers of materials pasted on each other with the help of machines.
A layman may think of a 3D printer as a different form of a normal paper printer, which is not at all true. 3D printers contain high-technology software programs that guide them about the dimensions of a building and robotic arms are connected with the 3D printers that follow the command and deposit layers of constructive material on the surface according to the design. Some of the well-known programs that guide 3D printers in contributing are CAD and BIM.
3D constructions can be done both on-site and off-site. These printers often use liquid construction materials such as cement, molten metals, and liquid plastic to create complex three-dimensional designs.
Some of the best examples of 3D construction around the world:
- DFAB HOUSE – Switzerland
- GAIA – Italy
- DUBAI Municipality Office Building – Dubai
- APIS COR Residential Home – Russia
- Pedestrian Bridge – Madrid
- 3D Printed Public Restroom – China
- Bicycle Bridge – Netherlands
What are the best 3D building approaches?
Although there are a lot of 3D building methods used by different construction companies to bring out the best from 3D printing, the prominent ones are mentioned here.
- Robotic Extrusion Approach:
Robotics has influenced all sectors to be it replacing human waiters in restaurants or being your assistant, we love robots. However, architecture was till recent times a field where fewer experiments are done. With the entry of 3D printing, the accuracy of robots is now used along with the high-tech software programs to create extraordinary building structures.
The approach has been named “Robotic Arm Extrusion” wherein a six-axis robotic arm is installed with a 3D printer and the robotic arm works according to the commands placed by the printer. But, before the robotic arm starts depositing building material, a structure is created on the construction platform so that it can act as a mold to guide the robotic arm.
The 3D printer is already set with the dimensions and shapes to be made through complex programming and then the machine is started. As expected the printer commands and the robotic arm starts depositing concrete mixture in the molds to build up the structure. The arm being functional from 6 axes moves to and fro to adjust and extrude the concrete for a fabulous and smooth finish. Moreover, there are trowels present along with the robotic arms to flatten the concrete as soon as it is deposited.
The robotic extrusion approach is often called the contour crafting method. One problem that arose was that this method could not be used with traditional cement as they take a lot of time for drying. To the solution, designers started using quick-drying cement which gives a better finish and is suitable for the robotic arm extrusion approach.
- Powder Bonding Approach:
Though the Robotics Arm process is one of the widely used 3D printing techniques, some approaches make this technology more unique. Powder Bonding is a 3D building approach wherein powder materials such as sand are deposited in specific shapes and thicknesses after which binders are poured over them to harden the powder substance. Moving further powder printing can be done via two methods, the bed fusion approach and the binder jetting approach.
- Powder Bed Fusion:
In this technique, a powder 3D printer is used that melts and incorporates powder particles into the desired mold with the help of a laser. The machine keeps on depositing layers of this linked powder material until the desired three-dimensional structure is achieved. An automatic recoating blade keeps on adding more powder material into the printer after each layer is done.
The small size of powder bed fusion laser has proved to be very effective in creating a detailed structure. Projects that demand high precision and are complex, can be easily fabricated through the bed fusion method.
- Binder Jetting method:
This is a simple technique when compared to the bed fusion method. Here instead of a laser, a print head is installed that pours a binder liquid on top of the powder print bed. The powder print bed is nothing but an arrangement of powdered construction materials assembled in the desired shape on top of which this binding agent is deposited to set the powdered material and achieve the end product. The powder printing method can print buildings using a vast range of materials including sand, silica, and metals too.
- Wire Arc Additive Welding Approach
Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing or WAAM is a unique 3D printing technique that is developed by MX3D, a Dutch company. The WAAM technology is a variation of the Direct Energy Deposition technique and it uses an arc welding method to melt metal wires for construction.
This technique can easily build up metal structures by using any material that is in wire form. Here the electric arc is used as a heat source to melt the metal wires and then a robotic arm deposits it on the construction plate in the form of beads. This process continues until multiple layers of metal beads are constructed upon the plate which is later cut off to finish the product.
WAAM technology is very helpful in designing large-scale metal parts, building or building components as the robotic arm here has much more freedom of space and movement. Moreover, WAAM is a cost-effective approach because the welding wires used in the technique are cheaper than powder bonding machines.
Advantages of 3D printing in the construction sector:
Although the invention of 3D building techniques was done long back around the year 1980, however, it was only till recent years that this technique has gained fame. When tired and inspected carefully, 3D construction showed better results and a number of benefits that could change the future of construction.
Listed below are some of the most remarkable benefits of 3D construction:
- Time-saving technology:
Unlike traditional construction projects that take months to finish, 3D construction sets itself apart by finishing a house or building in hours or days. It was recorded that a house was completed in just a matter of 24 hours! This feature of 3D building technology is a saviour for all, be it for the clients who receive their product in no time or the designers who quickly finish off their work and move on to the other.
- Cheaper than a traditional building:
Traditional building methods start with the ordering of raw materials in bulk, where most of them are wasted or remain unused. 3D construction machines demand the exact amount of material required to build a structure. Moreover, labor costs are also lessened. 3D construction not only saves money, but is also a sustainable and eco-friendly technique that reduces construction waste.
- Reduction in accidents and injuries
Working with bricks, cement blocks and metals is dangerous and can cause major accidents injuring laborers. With 3D construction, a major part of work is handled by machines that reduce the risk of accidents to an extent.
- Increased durability
The aforementioned 3D building approaches tell us how compact and strong structures these 3D printers make. The buildings constructed through the 3D construction technique provide extra durability which in turn demands less repairing and keeps the customer satisfied.
The Future of Building Construction: 3D Printing
People these days want their products to be atypical, unique, and economical. The same goes with their buildings! 3D construction is a term that can be dubbed as the biggest addition in the architecture sector. It reduces the cost and time, increases the durability of the structure, is environment-friendly, and offers a modern appearance, all of this in a single package.
Despite the benefits, 3D construction has only gained popularity and trust in a handful of clients around the world. However, the graph is growing and sooner or later, this technology will rule the hearts of all people and turn the construction sector upside down. A few more years of recognition and 3D printing will be the future of Building Construction.