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Technology has transformed the building sector since its inception. Advancements in materials and techniques have allowed human beings to build bigger, more beautiful structures for millennia.

That process shows no sign of slowing. Today, the growing field of 3D printing stands to change the way we design and construct the places where we live, work, and play.

Current materials, such as steel, are limited by their manufacturing techniques – certain designs and shapes simply aren’t possible given today’s methods.

3D printing, however, allows computers to build up structures using complex algorithms, meaning that utility components or other features can be imbedded directly into structural elements, and also allowing for unprecedented possibility in architectural design.

The 3D printing allows an individual item to be ‘manufactured’, without the need for a large-scale production line.

Under the process a 3D CAD model provides the ‘pattern’ for the item to be made, then a sophisticated laser printer translates this model into a ‘manufactured’ element.

The printer assesses and builds up the item layer by layer to form a solid element.

Elements have been printed in a number of different materials, including plastic, metal, concrete and even chocolate.

The concept of 3D printing has been around for more than 20 years, and companies like UK-based 3T RPD are marketing the technology to the construction sector to make prototypes and architectural models.

One initiative, called RepRap (Replicating Rapid-prototyper) is developing low-cost machines.

The RepRap project, which was created by Adrian Bowyer, senior lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bath, distributes its software under an open source licence, it is widely available.

3D printing can be used to manufacture complex components, including potentially one-off architectural elements or even sections of buildings.

The University of Southern California is working with the California Institute of Earth Art and Architecture on the application of its technology, called Contour Crafting, to ‘print’ basic adobe houses for use in emergency relief areas.

A number of universities and companies are developing the technology for different market sectors.

Researchers at the University of Southampton worked with 3T RPD to ‘print’ the first aircraft in seven days in the Southampton University laser sintered aircraft (SULSA) project.

Loughborough University is running the Build Freeform construction project, which is focusing on concrete ‘printing’.

This project has produced one (1) tonne reinforced concrete architectural piece for demonstration purposes.

The 3D printing process promises not only bold advances in building aesthetic, but also increased efficiencies in green building techniques as materials and dimensions become more precise and customizable.

The technology also greatly expands the potential of modelling of materials and designs off of the beautiful complexities and utility of natural forms.

Being able to directly translate digital designs into physical forms means big changes for the construction industry, and a chance for the building sector.

Source : Construction Digital and Building 4 Change.

(this article published in 1BINA.my)