There is no doubt about the advancements made in 3D printing technology over the last decade. Though 3D printing equipment and printable materials continue to be very expensive, the technology has opened wide the immense possibilities afforded by the process, including in the area of facade technology. Research is particularly driven by the prospect of cost-effective customisation.
Whether 3D printing has revolutionised the construction industry is open to debate. Last year, a particular development made headlines when manufacturer Winsun Decoration Design Engineering built ten Chinese houses using an enormous 150 x 10 x 6.6 metre 3D printer.
A team of researchers in north Amsterdam is currently working on fabricating an entire canal house using 3D printing. The Dutch team is fabricating parts of the canal house directly on site and gradually assembling them to form a three-storey building with an ornate facade.
The technology definitely delivers multiple benefits. For instance, 3D printing allows a real product to be generated directly from a digital file with no transport costs or waste, and only recyclable material left over at the end. Users of 3D printing technology also see opportunities in the high degree of customisation facilitated by the process, given how products can be fabricated to the exact requirements of the customer.
Research teams see excellent possibilities in the area of facade technology in particular: Professor Ulrich Knaack from TU Darmstadt (Technical University of Darmstadt) is currently supervising three doctorates on the topic of 3D printing. While he doesn’t expect the process to replace the familiar mass production methods in the window and facade construction industry in the foreseeable future, he believes the technology will supplement it through the production of individual parts.
Creating entire buildings using 3D printers will remain visions of the future, as the printers are still too slow. However, the DUS team is driven by their belief in the process.
Schueco is a total systems solutions provider, supplying Australia’s most comprehensive range of German engineered, highly insulated, premium quality aluminium systems for the whole building envelope.
Image: 3D fabrication of a window for the canal house by DUS Architects