AI SpaceFactory is one of a handful of ambitious startups now pushing forward with 3D printing technology to print buildings using some form of additive material, usually a cement-based mixture. The printers, mounted on robotic arms and gantries, trace the pattern of a building’s walls and squirt out material one thin layer at a time, based on the digital design files driving them, while pausing to create gaps where windows and doors are added later. When one layer is completed around the entire perimeter, the printer starts on the next one.
Claims of printing entire buildings in a day or less abound. Austin, Texas-based ICON, producer of a 33-foot-wide, 3,800-pound printer it calls the Vulcan II, printed a 350-square foot home on-site in 47 nonconsecutive hours for less than $10,000 in materials last year. Another firm, China’s WinSun, has used its factory-housed printer to spit out manufactured sections of buildings to be assembled on-site, including a five-story apartment building, and claims to have printed 10 houses in a single day. At the beginning of 2018, Boston Consulting Group counted fewer than 40 completed 3D-printed structures worldwide, a number that has continued to climb since.
With all the activity that’s happening in the space currently, proponents of 3D printing technology in construction are confident not only that the trend will continue but that its use is already more prevalent than commonly perceived.
by Joe Bousquin