Three-dimensional, or 3-D, printing is everywhere these days. The process of creating a physical object from a digital model by laying down thin layers of material has myriad applications. From creating human organs built from patients’ own cells to tailoring machine parts, 3-D has uses in every industry, including construction.
The process of creating 3-D models of structures and nonstructural products (such as bricks for landscaping) has been in use in the construction industry for many years. But researchers are looking far beyond making models using bigger, better, more versatile printers and recycled materials.
For investors and developers, the positive disruption to the building industry caused by 3-D technology opens up a whole new world of investment potential.
Take the Big Delta, developed by World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP). The 40-foot-high (12.2 m) 3-D printer can print homes from clay and dirt to provide emergency housing whenever and wherever it’s needed.
And a process developed by University of Southern California researcher Behrokh Khoshnevis has the possibility of totally automating the home construction process down to the plumbing and electrical systems.
A report from CMHC notes many of the advantages of 3-D printing in the home building industry, including on-site applications, reduced waste (as “printed products only use as much material as needed to form them”), and the potential of customizing design on a large scale with more interesting design features. There are challenges, as the CMHC report points out, including the cost. Investors take note.