Let’s begin with what and why we are here doing this in the first place.
For this initial posting, I shy away from the abstract and design rhetoric [that I am quite comfortable in] and focus on the pragmatic.
I refer to the 3d process specifically as it relates to making large scale objects [architectural scale objects that is] and using a cement-based medium.
A safer work environment
With fewer people involved in the direct contact with the act of building, there is less chance of the typical interactions between machines and labor which are the cause of most on-site accidents.
Less labor required
Again, machines substituting for the required traditional labor of others. Eliminated will be the form carpenters, floaters, other building tradesmen.
Customization for site specificity [customization without being custom]
The ability to adapt to unique conditions on the fly and in situ is one of the great benefits of working in this medium. If we encounter an unexpected site feature, it can be quickly modified and the software changed to reflect this issue and all changed in real time.
More precision in the work
Precision down to 2-3 mm level of accuracy is possible right now. This is a finer standard what is the currently accepted industry tolerances.
Less material wastage
At the moment we are only using what we print and virtually nothing is wasted. Exactly what is being produced is kept, all excess materials simply remain until needed, with the exception of perhaps 2% of the aggregate and binder.
Cheaper and Faster
Perhaps the cherished axiom ‘it’s the economy stupid’ should be stated at this juncture.. Far ahead of the design opportunities that this technology offers, and it does excel at that, it will find its comfort zone in the construction industry because it is just that. Water rises to its level. We are quickly seeing the industry embrace this technology because it recognizes the real cost effectiveness.
Cheaper and Faster.
How much cheaper? How much faster? It is difficult to say since we are still in the nascent stages, but there is enough data coming back from completed projects to take a reasonable and accurate estimate:
Traditionally labor accounts for about 40-48% of my construction company’s budget, imagine if I can save 90% of that and then add in the built-in efficiency that I’ve spoken about above..I hope that in the end we can see savings of 25% or more for like construction.
How much faster? We can print small structures in hours now that would have taken days if not weeks..and weeks what would have taken months. Again, this has been field tested and the data supports these findings. Even in situations where we are using a hybridized system [such as when examples have built floor structures using traditional form and casting techniques, or hand placing reinforcement bars] we are still seeing improvements in overall construction speed.
Negative environmental impacts?
At the moment there are virtually none. Our system in particular, which is based on a proprietary composition of concrete has a carbon footprint of a small fraction of what standard Portland cement uses, the latter of which is the primary 3d printed cement used. We are ideally looking at using local materials of the site itself to build the site. Ideally, no trucking in of aggregate and our system at least are non-toil binders and sand!. All of which are plentiful and inert. And we are looking to make this better. Most printers runs on a 220 volt 40 amp circuit or nothing more then a basic Lincoln Arc Welder.
And ending with one that is less pragmatic and perhaps more aspirational:
Redefining the Definition of what a GC or Architect is:
Perhaps for me, the biggest and most exciting change in all of this is that I believe it will globally redefine the very meaning of what an Architect is and what a Contractor could be in ways that we are only beginning to glean at the moment.
A homeowner [perhaps with a licensed operator] could timeshare a machine
Perhaps a Community leases a printer and splits it with its residents.
These are our starting points and there are few limits in our future.
Architect, Founder of Madco3d