3D printing is the complete opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out or hollowing out of metal or plastic with a milling machine. Whereas 3D printing uses an additive process whereby an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the 3D object is created.
This manufacturing process creates a physical object from a digital model file by adding layer upon layer of material to complete an object – fascinating right?
Surprisingly, the 3D printing concept was created in 1980 and was originally known as ‘rapid prototyping’. After 30 years of innovation the uses for 3D printing have become far more diverse with the introduction of things like 3D desktop printers that have made the technology increasingly more accessible to a wider audience. However, true to its origin, 3D printing is still widely used for ‘rapid prototyping’ as it allows designers and engineers to accurately print digital designs and review them within hours.
For designers, they are able to create multiple early concepts to set the direction of a product or space development as well as create realistic mock-ups to evaluate shape and form. Moreover, engineers can use diverse material options to performs functional testing of prototypes.
Acumen Research and Consulting forecasts that 3D printing technology is destined to transform every industry in the world and is set to be worth $41 billion by 2026 due to the prediction that almost every industry across the world will use 3D printing in some capacity.
What is so striking about 3D printing is the fact that you can actually print a building – yes a building! Incredibly, Holland’s canal laced city Amsterdam has unveiled the worlds first 3D-printed steel pedestrian bridge located in the city’s Red Light District across the Oudezijs Achterburgwal canal.
After almost 6 years since its announcement in 2015 Her Majesty the Queen of the Netherlands, Maxima who was assisted by a ribbon-cutting robot during the ceremony on the 15th July 2021.
The curving 6-ton stainless steel structure spans nearly 40ft across the canal and was constructed using a wire arc additive manufacturing process that marries advanced robotics with welding. Designed by Joris Laarman Lab with Arup serving as lead engineer and with the help of four robots, the entire printing process took just six months!
Interestingly, data will be collected to enable researchers and engineers to measure the bridge’s ‘health’ in real time, to monitor its life span and understand how the public react to 3D-printed infrastructure.
The development of such technology makes it almost inevitable that the construction industry will see a shift in the way it operates and produces certain materials.
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