A Framework for Bringing 3D Printing into the Construction Industry

3D printing technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything. Even President Obama is a fan and called it the future of manufacturing.  Almost any object can be created with a 3D printer; clothing, toys, machinery, weapons, prosthetic body parts, a first car has been printed. From the construction industry’s point of view, buildings are products and the following questions remain to be answered: Why are we not printing buildings? What is the state of the art of technology and science in this field? What could be done to streamline and speed up the process of the research related to 3D printing of buildings and, consequently, the application of these technologies in construction industry? This research seeks to address these questions by proposing a framework for organizing the most advanced existing research related to 3D printing technology, applicable on construction site, to speed up the process of integrating it into the construction industry.

Point of departure
Pilot studies of freeform construction (B. Khoshnevis; R. A. Buswell, A. Thorpe, R. C. Soar, and A. G. F. Gibb) have identified four groups of problems and recommended possible approaches to solve them in the future research:
1)    The processes capable of delivering components large enough for building structures are unlikely to be a scaled up versions of a current process used for RM; new systems and processes need to be developed.
2)    Material cost and its heterogeneity in a freeform process are important issues; material properties and process characteristics need to be an integral part of new delivery systems.
3)    Building 3D printing processes are probably not going to be faster than traditional approaches; the automation process should be re-evaluated and re-designed.
4)    A greater performance of building elements, build-in materials and  specialists’ applications, like automated plumbing and automated electrical and communication wiring need to be solved; these can be achieved through clever innovative design of the building element geometry.

Big idea/ Research Proposal
A conceptual framework for researchers and innovative practitioners on 3d-printing applications in the construction industry could address the identified problems. However, a systematic compilation of the existing knowledge and the scientific research of the most progressive groups in the world does not exist. The framework will provide a transparent comparison between currently unrelated, but relevant, existing frameworks, identify theoretical gaps, and recommend possible links in form of research proposals, existing research, methodology or systems in or outside the field of construction. The higher goal of this research is to streamline the application of 3D printing into the construction industry, which could one day revolutionize existing design/construction practice.

Current Scope of Research

  1. The state of the art in related science and technology (conferences, presentations, workshops, lecture organizations)
  2. Industry examples where 3D printing could revolutionize standard design and manufacturing systems: Courtesy of Permasteelisa: Presentation on Facade: 12.000 m² Glazing: Low-E 52/29 (Louvres act as additional shading) manufacturing on Foster’s project The Walbrook in London
  3. Identification of most relevant research groups in the field of material science, automation of construction, theory of design (biomimetic approach)
  4. How to manage different groups of scientists?  A trial to connect and combine different research projects into one – definition of the most appropriate method to streamline and speed up the process of using 3D printing in the construction industry
  5. An experiment: testing the 3D scan – 3D model – 3D print workflow
  6. Identification of 3D printing advantages over other manufacturing processes (e.g. mass-customization and addition new functions) and its impact on a standard design process (from paper based design trough BIM modeling to the “Digital Trinity” ( “Digital Trinity” mode (--- A)Manipulate/Analyze  (Simulation, FEA/CFD, Optimization & multi-functionality processor) --- B)Input/Capture/ (scanning, Parametric CAD, Recapture in process, sensors) --- C)Output/Print (digital Fabrication, Heterogeneous or Continuous (effecter))like nature does)
  7. Future research proposals/ detailed research proposal on Computational (3D digital modelling and 3D printing/additive manufacturing technologies) methods to add new (energy performance) functions to construction materials

The latest summary of the insights and findings to date are in attached presentations: Mrazovic_StateOfTheArtOf3DPrintingIndustryAndResearch_0814.pdf and Mrazovic_StateOfTheArt_3DPrintingForCurtainWalls_0814.pdf .

CIFESeedProposal 2013_01.pdf1.07 MB
CIFE_Seed_2013_01.pptx2.57 MB
Mrazovic_StateOfTheArt_3DPrintingForCurtainWalls_0814.pdf2.92 MB
Mrazovic_StateOfTheArtOf3DPrintingIndustryAndResearch_0814.pdf10.58 MB
CIFESeedProposal2014_02_0514.pdf3.59 MB

Last modified Wed, 3 Sep, 2014 at 13:37