Additive Manufacturing’s Endless Potential

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3D printing technology has been the cause of much excitement throughout the manufacturing industry. As the technology matures and more materials become readily available, the applications of additive manufacturing continue to add up. From full scale 3D printing production lines, to 3D printing components for NASA’s space shuttle, more manufacturers are looking to additive manufacturing to help meet their production needs.

However, this incredible technology is not just for manufacturers in the shop. Researchers are looking for new ways to 3D print houses in impoverished nations as well as a solution to the future issue of building habitats on other planets. It might sound like a science fiction movie plot, but NASA scientists, along with other top space agencies, are seriously considering the use of 3D printing for future space exploration missions.

This kind of technology might have very specific applications when looking at future space habitats, but it could also have a more immediate impact for businesses here on Earth.

World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP), an Italian collective, has unveiled the world’s largest 3D printer, BigDelta. This nearly 40 foot tall 3D printer takes natural material like mud, clay, water, dirt, and natural fibers to construct an affordable dwelling in just mere hours. These 3D printed houses use the natural surrounding material which cuts down on the need to ship materials to a construction site. The only equipment that needs to be transported will be the 40 foot frame of the BigDelta. It may look like a lot of work to bring this gigantic 3D printer onto a job site, but the lightweight frame makes it very easy to move from place to place.

The ability to build houses when and where they’re needed while keeping costs extremely low, under $5,000 USD, opens up the potential to deliver emergency housing for those displaced by natural disasters or even providing houses for the homeless. A Chinese company has already been printing full homes for around $5,000 USD, but these are printed in sections and delivered to the required location.

Many look at 3D printing as the technology of the future and the solution to a plethora of problems. However, some are intimidated by the technology and the impact it could have on their business. Manufacturers wondered if additive manufacturing will be the end of the traditional machine shop, but we have seen more of a melding of traditional and additive technologies, rather than one replacing the other. So the same might be true when it comes to the construction industry. It could be possible that 3D printing will become a part of the traditional construction process, creating a more efficient and sustainable industry. Homes made from natural material found around a construction site could dramatically streamline the construction process.

Whatever the future holds for the manufacturing and construction industry, it is apparent that 3D printing will be involved. For manufacturing in particular, the flexibility 3D printing offers has helped many businesses create more efficient production methods. The construction industry could be undergoing a similar transformation, implementing 3D printed materials into homes to create a more efficient construction process. One thing is for sure, 3D printing is here to stay and will continue to surprise us all.

Sources:

http://www.engadget.com/2016/01/11/concrete-on-mars/

http://www.sciencealert.com/the-world-s-largest-3d-printer-can-now-make-entire-houses-out-of-clay

http://qz.com/508960/a-new-enormous-3d-printer-whips-cheap-homes-out-of-mud/