Construction 3D printing

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Building printing refers to various technology that use 3D printing as a way to construct buildings. Potential advantages of this process include quicker construction, lower labor costs, and less waste produced. 3D printing at a large scale may be well suited for construction of extraterrestrial structures on the Moon or other planets where environmental conditions are less conducive to human labor-intensive building practices.

Developments in additive manufacturing technologies have included attempts to make 3D printers capable of producing structural buildings.


Related technology development began in the 1960s, with pumped concrete and isocyanate foams.[1]

Current technology

Modern development and research have been under way since 2004 to flexibly construct buildings for commercial and private habitation. With built-in plumbing and electrical facilities, in one continuous build the process uses large 3D printers that would notionally complete the building in approximately 20 hours of "printer" time.[2] By January 2013, working versions of 3D-printing building technology were printing 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) of building material per hour, with a follow-on generation of printers proposed to be capable of 3.5 metres (11 ft) per hour, sufficient to complete a building in a week.[3]

Behrokh Khoshnevis founded the Contour Crafting project which demonstrated the basic capability, based on two parallel rails, an XY-controlled printing gantry and pressurized concrete tank. Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars's performative architecture 3D-printed building was planned to be built by a partnership of Dutch companies.[4][needs update] [5] The house was planned to be built in the end of 2014, but this deadline wasn't met. The companies said that they are still 100% sure the house will be printed.[6]

Various approaches to building printing are being researched. Two of these are Contour crafting[7] and D-Shape.[8][9] Other approaches involve direct sintering of inorganic raw materials to build composite ceramic building structures, similar to the approach used with metals in direct metal laser sintering.[10]

3D printed residential buildings

In the Netherlands, DUS Architects is 3D printing a 3D Printed Canal House, together with an international team of partners. The 3D Print Canal House links science, design, construction and community at an open building site in the heart of Amsterdam. Their aim is to demonstrate how 3D printing could revolutionize construction by increasing efficiency and reducing pollution and waste, and offer new tailor made housing solutions worldwide. 3D printing could also play a significant role in the quick build of low-cost housing in impoverished areas and those affected by disasters. The 3D Print Canal House is currently under construction at a canal-side plot in Amsterdam – an open ‘expo-site’ that it is proving to be a popular visitor attraction for the public. At the heart of the site, is the Kamermaker, or Room Builder – which is essentially a scaled-up version of a table-top 3D printer. The Kamermaker prints building blocks from molten bio-plastic. This is currently a mix of 80% plant oil reinforced with microfibers, although this formula is still under development with the project’s materials partner Henkel. For reinforcement, the blocks have an internal honeycombed centre that can be back-filled with Eco concrete. It also provides space for pipes, wiring and data cables to be installed internally.[citation needed]

The building blocks are then used to form component parts that can be slotted together like Lego to create a 4-storey, 13-room structure modelled on a traditional Dutch canal house. One of the most distinct design features of the Canal House is its geometrically-faceted plastic façade. 3D Print House Building BlocksThis gives a contemporary 3D print twist to the traditional canal house silhouette. The ability to print ornamental detailing on demand is a key design benefit of 3D modelling and printing in the building industry. With costly labour-intensive work reduced, custom-designed homes would become more accessible. So what are the main benefits of printing a house? Waste materials are a big problem for the building industry, but with 3D printing only the necessary raw materials are produced for each project. An added bonus is that 3D printer ‘ink’ can be made from recycled plastic waste. If printing on site, transport costs and CO2 emissions are greatly reduced – as are dust and noise levels. And when the building is no longer needed, it can be shredded and recycled. Another key driver for developing this technology within the construction industry is the growing need for rapidly-produced housing. In this respect, 3D printing has the potential to reshape the way in which we build our cities – especially as Megacities are on the increase around the globe. The 3D Print Canal House was the first full-scale construction project of its kind to get off the ground. In just a short space of time, the Kamermaker has been further developed to increase its production speed by 300%. However, progress has not been swift enough to claim the title of ‘World’s First 3D Printed House’.[11]

The Chinese company WinSun has built several houses using large 3D printers sparing a mixture of quick drying cement and recycled raw materials.[12] Ten demo houses were built in 24 hours, each costing US$5000.[13][14] However, house printing pioneer Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis claims this was faked and that WinSun stole his intellectual property.[15]

Dutch and Chinese demonstration projects are slowly constructing 3D-printed buildings, using the effort to educate the public to the possibilities of the new plant-based building technology and to spur greater innovation in 3D printing of residential buildings.[16][17]

Extraterrestrial printed structures

The printing of buildings has been proposed as a particularly useful technology for constructing off-Earth habitats, such as habitats on the Moon or Mars.

As of 2013, the European Space Agency was working with London-based Foster + Partners to examine the potential of printing lunar bases using regular 3D printing technology.[18] The architectural firm proposed a building-construction 3D-printer technology in January 2013 that would use lunar regolith raw materials to produce lunar building structures while using enclosed inflatable habitats for housing the human occupants inside the hardshell printed lunar structures. Overall, these habitats would require only ten percent of the structure mass to be transported from Earth, while using local lunar materials for the other 90 percent of the structure mass.[3]

The dome-shaped structures would be a weight-bearing catenary form, with structural support provided by a closed-cell structure, reminiscent of bird bones.[19] In this conception, "printed" lunar soil will provide both "radiation and temperature insulation" for the Lunar occupants.[3] The building technology mixes lunar material with magnesium oxide which will turn the "moonstuff into a pulp that can be sprayed to form the block" when a binding salt is applied that "converts [this] material into a stone-like solid."[3] A type of sulfur concrete is also envisioned.[19]

Tests of 3D printing of an architectural structure with simulated lunar material have been completed, using a large vacuum chamber in a terrestrial lab.[20] The technique involves injecting the binding liquid under the surface of the regolith with a 3D printer nozzle, which in tests trapped 2 millimetres (0.079 in)-scale droplets under the surface via capillary forces.[19] The printer used was the D-shape.[citation needed]

A variety of lunar infrastructure elements have been conceived for 3D structural printing, including landing pads, blast protection walls, roads, hangars and fuel storage.[19]

In early 2014, NASA funded a small study at the University of Southern California to further develop the Contour Crafting 3D printing technique. Potential applications of this technology include constructing lunar structures of a material that could consist of up to 90-percent lunar material with only ten percent of the material requiring transport from Earth.[7]

NASA is also looking at a different technique that would involve the sintering of lunar dust using low-power (1500 watt) microwave energy. The lunar material would be bound by heating to 1,200 to 1,500 °C (2,190 to 2,730 °F), somewhat below the melting point, in order to fuse the nanoparticle dust into a solid block that is ceramic-like, and would not require the transport of a binder material from Earth as required by the Foster+Partners, Contour Crafting, and D-shape approaches to extraterrestrial building printing. One specific proposed plan for building a lunar base using this technique would be called SinterHab, and would utilize the JPL six-legged ATHLETE robot to autonomously or telerobotically build lunar structures.[10]

See also


  1. Papanek (1971). Design for the Real World. ISBN 978-0897331531.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "3D printer can build a house in 20 hours". YouTube. 2012-08-13. Retrieved 2014-03-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Diaz, Jesus (2013-01-31). "This Is What the First Lunar Base Could Really Look Like". Gizmodo. Retrieved 2013-02-01.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 3D printed Landscape House
  5. "The World's First 3D-Printed Building Will Arrive In 2014". TechCrunch. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2013-02-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Video summary of Landscape house forum and workshop Sept 3rd 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 "NASA's plan to build homes on the Moon: Space agency backs 3D print technology which could build base". TechFlesh. 2014-01-15. Retrieved 2014-01-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Edwards, Lin (19 April 2010). "3D printer could build moon bases". Retrieved 21 October 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Cesaretti, Giovanni; Enrico Dini; Xavier de Kestelier; Valentina Colla; Laurent Pambaguian (January 2014). "Building components for an outpost on the Lunar soil by means of a novel 3D printing technology". Acta Astronautica. 93: 430–450. doi:10.1016/j.actaastro.2013.07.034. Retrieved 4 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. 10.0 10.1 Steadman, Ian. "Giant Nasa spider robots could 3D print lunar base using microwaves (Wired UK)". Retrieved 2014-03-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "China's Building 3D Printed Houses". Retrieved 2014-08-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "China: Firm 3D prints 10 full-sized houses in a day". Retrieved 2014-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Giant 3D printer creates 10 full-sized houses in a DAY: Bungalows built from layers of waste materials cost less than £3,000 each, Daily Mail, 28 April 2014, accessed 16 May 2014.
  16. "How Dutch team is 3D-printing a full-sized house". BBC. 2014-05-03. Retrieved 2014-06-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. The plan to print actual houses shows off the best and worst of 3D printing (2014-06-26), James Robinson, PandoDaily
  18. "Building a lunar base with 3D printing / Technology / Our Activities / ESA". 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2014-03-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 "3D Printing of a lunar base using lunar soil will print buildings 3.5 meters per hour". Newt Big Future. 2013-09-19. Retrieved 2013-09-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "3D printed moon building designs revealed". BBC News. 2013-02-01. Retrieved 2013-02-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "NASA - 3D Printing In Zero-G Technology Demonstration". 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2014-03-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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