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Don't Build. Print.


3-D printers are the hot new item in the tech market, and architects-especially those whose eyes are drawn the bright, shiny new thing-are finding great uses for them. The printers allow for much more sophisticated modeling, which can help increase construction efficiency and determine optimal engineering.

They seem kind of like magical machines to me. I recently saw a humorous cartoon that showed a man using a 3-D printer to make a 3-D printer. The caption read, "3-D printer makers ask customers not to use printer to make more 3-D printers."

I've also watched videos of 3-D printers being used to make metal ornamental pieces that are incredibly intricate and quicker than would have been possible from making them from molds.

Kaypro Computer

The printers are expensive to buy and expensive to operate, but that will change. And the future of them will change as well. Consider this report about a group in the Netherlands which is using a 3-D printer to build a house in Amsterdam. (Check out the CNN report here.) The material for the printing is a bio-plastic that is much more sustainable than many materials. Each block is 2.5 meters by 1.7 meters and it will take three years to print enough blocks and build the house.

That's a long, long time to build a house.

Still, you have to start somewhere. If we've learned anything from technological changes in the last quarter century, it's that these constraints on 3-D printing will evolve quickly. In 1986, I bought a Kaypro personal computer. It included the classic amber monitor, WordStar software, and an upgrade option to a 15 mb hard drive. I could not for the life of me imagine requiring that much storage space. And why would you need a color monitor to read text?

Will it be possible to have portable printers that work like portable rollformers and just make our metal metal panels on the job site? Can we pour foundations with printers?

What's the future hold, and how are you using 3-D printing technology for metal construction now?


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