Most people know that 3D printing is having a profound effect on the industrial and manufacturing sectors. But fewer are aware that the technology is also revolutionizing other areas of the economy. Among the lesser-known sectors for 3D printing is architecture. Today, architects are using additive manufacturing to aid them in everything from conceptualization to actual construction. Here are a few of the ways in which 3D printing in architecture is helping t0 design the buildings of the future.
Previewing Early Designs
Architecture has always relied heavily on the construction of models to see what designs look like in real life. With 3D printing, though, those models have become both more accurate and much easier to make. An architect with a 3D printer at his or her disposal can now generate 3D models in a computer software. Furthermore, with the press of a button, they can create a scale model. One very prominent example of an architectural 3D print that was made early on in the design process after a concept had been developed was the case of a large headquarters building in Abu Dhabi. The building, designed for the Masdar City development project, was intended to be the world’s first functionally energy-positive construction project.
Showing Finished Designs to Customers or Approval Boards
Once an architect has finished the design for a given building or development, he or she needs to show it to the client for approval. In some cases, local government officials may also need to approve the design. At this stage, 3D printing also becomes incredibly useful. Just as in the actual design phase, architects can easily create models of their buildings that will convey the full visual impact of the designs they’ve created. This helps the people who see the design to picture what it will look like as a finished building.
Although 3D printing is mostly used in the earlier stages of architectural design, it is also becoming a functional technology for construction. Thanks to the ability to print cement and geopolymers, some large 3D printers can now create structural parts for buildings. In some extreme cases, 3D printing has even been used to create entire homes, as in the case of the experimental house printed in Russia by the startup company Apis Cor. 3D printing as a construction method is still in a very early stage. One day, 3D printing may quickly and inexpensively create entire buildings.
As in most fields, 3D printing is just beginning to establish itself as a major tool in the architectural industry. 3D printers will continue to become more refined and capable of printing larger objects. Thus, their role in the integrated design and construction process will only continue to expand.