Construction Innovations

When we think of 3D printing, the output that most readily comes to mind is small white prototype models, built inside a machine with limited commercial application. However, we get a flavour for the future of 3D printing in the form of a canal spanning bridge in Amsterdam. Using robotic arms to ‘print’ steel in the open-air, the bridge is more cost effective and lighter than its traditional counterparts. Speed of installation, reduction of labour and now the ability to print bespoke elements in situ, open the door for huge changes to the way we build. What we build with is also up for grabs. Most concrete is currently made using water-swept sand, which is both finite and environmentally damaging. Researchers at Imperial College have invented a new building material that uses smooth desert sand. It has less than half the carbon footprint of traditional cement paste and has the added benefit of being recyclable. In the combination of 3D printing and new materials with which to print come exciting solutions that decrease construction time, costs and environmental impacts.