Technology has transformed the building sector since its inception – from compacted earth huts, to brick and mortar, to the breathtaking architectural possibilities of steel, 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 burgeoning field of 3D printing stands to revolutionize the way we design and construct the places where we live, work, and play. Today’s 3D printers are expensive – typically $10,000 to $60,000 each – and give material form to digital models through the layering of various malleable materials such as metallic pastes, plastics, or even concrete.
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 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 biomimicry – the modeling of materials and designs off of the beautiful complexities and utility of natural forms.
Being able to directly translate digital designs into physical forms, given the rise in BIM and other powerful software suites, means big changes for the construction industry, and a chance for the building sector to jump headfirst into the 21st century.