How 3D Printing Can Play a Role in Architecture

How 3D Printing Can Play a Role in ArchitectureRemember when technology was a far-off distant notion? Something that was only present in futuristic science fiction movies like Space Odyssey 2001? It’s safe to say that the times have changed ever so slightly and technological advances are a part of our everyday lives. In no time, we’ll be communicating with holograms and flying through the air to get to our next appointments. Technology doesn’t just impact the tools and equipment that we have inside the house, it has also begun to impact the designs of dream homes themselves. Australian Heritage Homes believes in the perfect balance of technological simplicity and attention to detail. By now, you’re probably familiar with our passion and dedication to sharing the most exciting industry news on the Australian Heritage Homes blog. In that spirit, today we highlight a design company who is using the art of 3D printing to concept designs for homes.

Nanyang Technological University is one of Singapore’s top educational institutions. They’re changing the game by proposing a new technique to building homes, one that takes a very similar approach to building with Lego toys. That’s a very simplified way of looking at 3D printing, which is the process of building multi-dimensional objects, one piece or layer at a time, using melted plastic of powdered metal which has been fused together. This is a process that is growing at a rapid rate. It’s not just prevalent in architecture but in industries like footwear and apparel as well. Nanyang Technological University is home to the Singapore Center for 3D printing. This program believes that 3D printing could be the answer to public housing on a faster timeline and at lower costs. They envision 3D printed high-rises for residential use. If successful in constructing, they will be the first country in the world to have such a presence. That’s not to say that they’d be the first out of the gate to construct general housing using 3D printing. We’ve seen projects in Amsterdam (full-sized canal houses), China (up to ten houses in one day), Dubai (an office building, courtesy of a printer that is more than 20 feet tall) and Tennessee, USA (a wall of houses using a free-form 3D printer).

The plan of attack is led by Professor Chua Chee Kai, who is the executive director of the center. He and his team aim to print the individual structural elements, necessary to make the building sound and safe, and then stack these elements on top of each other—hence, the Lego method comparison. The method of stacking is also known as Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction.

The team is working with a big budget, but a tight timeline. The Centre is willing to invest more than $100 million in funding, and wants to design a prototype in the next three years. But there’s one big challenge ahead—as of now, there are no 3D printers in existence that are large enough to handle the scope of the project. There’s also no identified way to print the concrete needed to buildings of this size and capacity. That said, Kai and team’s passion and enthusiasm for the project know no bounds. We’ll continue to keep an eye on their journey, and update our readers.