How Will 3D Printing Impact the Construction Industry?

Construction through 3D printing gets more advanced every year. Will this tech soon be a disruptor in the residential construction industry?

A U.S. Marine walks across a concrete footbridge built with 3D printing technology

The United States Department of Defense’s Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) recently solicited proposals to move forward on plans to build military structures through 3D printing. The group asked commercial companies to provide 3D printing systems that will allow the military to quickly and efficiently build a variety of structures, including barracks, bridges, and anti-vehicle obstacles.

The U.S. Army has previously researched and developed 3D printing technology through the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES) project. The goal of the Department of Defense’s new initiative is to further the efficiency of the military by incorporating the latest commercial technologies.

The deadline for proposals was May 7th. Proposed systems were required to be able to be set up and taken down in less than one hour and operated in a variety of diverse environments. The DIU also required that these systems could be operated by teams of, at the most, four trained operators.

What does 3D printing mean for the construction industry?

The U.S. military’s efforts to incorporate 3D printing technology into their construction methods is a clear sign that this revolutionary technology is generating serious interest from major parties. But will construction-through-3D-printing prove to be a “disruptive” influence on the residential construction industry in the United States?

Maybe not yet. While the military might be all-in on 3D printing, using that tech to build homes in the residential sector is a different matter entirely. Most of the industry leading companies in this area are still in the start-up phase and seem more concerned with providing concepts than real world applications.

What kind of house can be 3D printed?

The concepts that these companies are developing are definitely worth paying attention to. In March of 2018 New Story, a housing nonprofit based in San Francisco, teamed up with Icon, a construction technology company, to produce a permitted, permanent 3D-printed tiny home. Together they built a 350-square-foot home in just 48 hours and for only $10,000.

Courtesy of ICON
Home built with 3D printing technology

While building a structure smaller than the average studio apartment may not seem noteworthy, doing it so quickly, inexpensively, and through the use of 3D-printing is a major step forward. The homes that New Story plans to develop will be used for low-income housing in impoverished areas.

3D printing homes is quick and cost-efficient but still limited by the relative newness of the technology itself. As 3D printing tech advances it will continue to improve, and the new construction methods that it allows are poised to become a disruptor, even in the change-resistant construction industry.