Do you use a 3D printer? If not, I’m fairly certain you’ve heard about 3D printers and the items they can create. The technology has quickly moved from niche markets to mass appeal. In 2014, roughly 140,000 3D printers were sold and shipped. According to new research by BI Intelligence, 3D printers will cross the 1 million-unit threshold within the next couple of years. By 2018, 3D printer shipments will increase tenfold from current levels. Costs are declining and access to the devices is increasing - a perfect storm for innovation.
Improved efficiencies and speed are two critical areas of importance in the construction industry. This technology has the ability to positively impact both. At Williams Scotsman, we find the outputs of these devices extremely compelling. From healthcare to automotive and the general construction industry, the 3D printer is challenging the norm and product development process. From our viewpoint the 3D printer is yet another powerful technology that can and likely will expedite the construction timeline.
Companies around the world are using 3D printing to shake up a variety of industries. One China-based company, WinSun, is 3D printing large-scale structures such as homes and apartment buildings entirely out of recycled construction waste. WinSun recently showcased a 12,000 square foot house, complete with decorative elements. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t appreciate a brand new villa designed and built in 60 to 80 percent less time than usual?
While these new 3D printed buildings are certainly eye-catching and tremendously innovative, there are still obstacles for integration into the construction process. First of all, it’s difficult to create a 3D printed building that complies with current building regulations. There are also many questions surrounding the insulation, fireproofing, wind loads, foundations, as well as the possible materials to print with, that have yet to be answered.
The 3D printer might be the next tool to revolutionize the way we bring homes, office buildings, hospitals and schools to life in record speed. We are excited and inspired by this advancement. It could very well be a game changer for the construction industry, but it’s not going to happen tomorrow. What is your experience with 3D printing?