3D printing is revolutionising our industry10 October 2016
Modular bathrooms, complete kitchen concepts and even a whole house has been constructed using 3D printing technology. It marks the dawning of a new era in the construction of places, spaces, services, tools and parts. But how is 3D printing changing the face of our industry – for good and for bad?
“As the technology is refined, 3D printing could mark a new era in building houses,” states the recently published Construction Skills Queensland (CSQ) Farsight 2016 report. “[Through 3D printing] every component can be produced to exact specifications to reduce or even eliminate construction waste. Additionally, the technology allows for the production of complex shapes, helping to create sturdier structures using less materials and meeting a growing consumer preference for personalised design,” the report states.
Experts also predict the technology will print modern-day necessities such as plumbing, and even electricity, at the same time as a home is being constructed.
There’s lots of great benefits associated with the rise of 3D printing: cheaper transportation of materials, reduced waste, and reduced cost of construction creating more affordable housing and trade services for customers. Even better, some 3D printed parts and designs will be able to be easily dismantled, replaced and also recycled.
One of the challenges of 3D printing is in the materials fed into the devices. According to Aric Rindfleisch of Illinois MakerLab, a 3D printing lab at the University of Illinois, scientists are closely tracking the materials used for construction and how long they take to dry before a new layer can be added.
“About two years ago, all we could print was hard plastic,” Rindfleisch says. “Now we can print soft plastics. We can print wood.” (This printable wood comes in the form of pulp mixed with plastic that can be fed into a 3D printer.)
Another challenge for 3D printing is the implications to the job market and resulting shift in demand for new, tech-savvy skills. “3D printing does … require new jobs in robotics and software programming,” CSQ’s report states. “And design and engineering skills that can exploit the potential of materials and forms.” Essentially, for those working in manufacturing, construction and associated industries, some early upskilling that helps embrace this new technology may be necessary to keep one step ahead of the times.
So, as 3D printing technology continues to advance, the pressure is on to reskill and upskill. But by equal measures there’s plenty of good coming out of this innovation, and it may just mean we can pass on the positives to our customers on a daily basis.
Sources: Construction Skills Queensland Farsight Report 2016,