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Report: 3D printing will play a key role in construction… eventually

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3D printing is still a few years away from being commercially viable in construction, but as the industry continues to modernise it is set to play a key role, says a new report.

Will 3D Printing Remodel the Construction Industry? by the Boston Consulting Group says that at the start of 2018 fewer than 40 large-scale demonstration projects/prototypes have been fully realised. It put the total value of outputs at less than $100m (out of the total annual industry revenue $10 trn globally).

The report says: “3D printing fits naturally with the construction industry. Benefits include freedom of design, accelerated delivery, reduced labour needs, greater safety and a lower environmental impact.”

While it points out that 3D-printed construction is still a niche market and can’t yet fully compete with conventional in-situ construction and prefabrication, it says: “However, several major construction companies and many start-ups have begun exploiting the new technology and a strong business case is clearly emerging.”

Applications such as architectural models and interior design are already commercially viable, whilst bridges and office buildings are still at the prototype stage.

The authors point out that various obstacles remain, including equipment costs, technical issues, special skills, regulation, and client scepticism, however they should soon be surmounted.

“In the short term, many contractors will likely aim to provide turnkey projects, but in the longer term a more specialist model will take hold, with contractors buying or leasing printing equipment and pre-printed components

“Full benefits only materialise when 3D printing is applied at scale. Stakeholders need to make investments as soon as possible. By embracing the 3D printing revolution, contractors, equipment suppliers, and building materials manufacturers will boost their prospects.”

See the report here.

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