Let’s start with an example that illustrates the potential of 3D printing in the infrastructure and construction industry. A Zurich-based research firm recently experimented with using 3D printing technology to formwork components made of biodegradable mineral foam to construct a pre-cast concrete slab that is lighter and more insulated while using 70% less material.
This technique significantly reduced the amount of concrete used in the manufacturing process. Researchers believe the utilization of this technique at a mass level could help lower the environmental footprint of construction, particularly of cement, which is the world’s largest single CO2 emitter.
Unfortunately, cement consumption has a high ecological impact, accounting for 8% of CO2 emissions worldwide. After water, it is the world’s second-most consumed material, and its production is rapidly increasing. By 2050, production is expected to rise from 4.4 billion to 5.5 billion tones. With this projected development, construction industry stakeholders must work together to adopt sustainable building materials and new technologies.
At such a time when rapid climate change, rising global emissions, and the ever-growing problem of material waste disposal are rife, 3D printed solutions come in handy with alternatives even for the construction sector. Several firms are touting 3D printing for the home construction sector as the next most appealing, sustainable, practical, and economical option.
Some of the world’s top home builders are starting to take notice of this breakthrough, which is improving at breakneck speed. Doesn’t it sound like the 21st-century version of the “Three Little Pigs”? The incorporation of 3D printed houses made of soil and clay is a great concept to drastically cut CO2 emissions from cement production for use in buildings, which today surpass those produced by aviation fuel!
Another example of online 3D printing technology’s prowess is its capacity to improve the efficiency and productivity of the construction of power transport facilities. A renewable energy company that had to deliver thousands of kilometers of electric transmission and distribution power lines collaborated with a robotics services firm to expand transmission networks and ease the transition from fossil fuels to renewables while delivering green energy to load centers and customers.
The image is used for illustration purposes. Zeal 3D Printing is not the owner or creator of the image.(Image Source: Hyperion Robotics)
Given that the construction industry is the least digitized and is currently experiencing a skilled labour crisis, the robotics company offered timely and realistic solutions that involved large-scale 3D printing of low-carbon concrete construction to ensure faster, cheaper, and more ecologically friendly output. This integration of online 3D print lessened the environmental impact of new facilities while also reducing lead times and project costs to improve the construction of transmission networks.
The robotics company even cut down the amount of structural concrete required by up to 75% and the amount of waste created by a significant amount- thanks to its unique 3D print micro-factories. The technology makes the process more sustainable and enhances health and safety standards because robots undertake the heavy lifting while workers monitor.
Another issue in the sector that robotic 3D printing systems are addressing is recycling. The printing technique employs reinforced low-carbon concrete created from a mix of industry end-of-cycle resources such as fly ash, blast furnace slag, demolition debris and mining tailings, resulting in significant cost measures and a 90% reduction in embodied CO2 emissions.