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3D-Printed Structures Get Larger, Fuel Sustainable Construction Debate

3D printed structures construction building
A time lapse of 3D Printhuset’s building-on-demand. Credit: 3D Printhuset on YouTube

As the debate about the environmental implications of 3D printing continues, businesses are pushing the boundaries of what the technology can do. The Danish company 3D Printhuset recently completed the printed office-hotel structure for a site in Copenhagen, but the race to create Europe’s first inhabitable 3D-printed building didn’t quite go as planned, the media site 3D Printing Industry reported.

The November 30 installation date for 3D Printhuset’s building-on-demand had to be pushed back when the printing process ended up taking twice as long as the original estimate, according to 3D Printing Industry. CTO Jakob Jørgensen told the publication that the project team had “severe difficulties with the whole material handling prior to printing” that caused equipment failures. In addition, “faulty material deliveries” slowed down the team.

Despite those kinds of challenges, large 3D-printed structures are gaining in popularity. Last year, the 2,690-square-foot Office of the Future in Dubai became the world’s first 3D-printed office building, New Atlas reported. The basic building only took 17 days to print and, although the budget wasn’t made public, the government said that using 3D printing cut labor costs in half.

In another first, last month Eindhoven University of Technology engineers finished a 3D-printed bridge 26 feet in length for cyclists in the Netherlands. “The bridge is being touted as more sustainable than its traditionally constructed concrete counterparts, as the 3D printing method reduced the amount of concrete necessary to build the structure,” according to Construction Dive.

3D printing, also called additive manufacturing, has the potential to be more environmentally friendly than existing manufacturing practices from a retailer standpoint because it allows for local production and zero waste, a recent issue of Yale’s Journal of Industrial Ecology points out. However, as the publication’s editor-in-chief notes, it’s still too early to know for sure whether the process is actually sustainable.

We are accepting submissions for the 2018 Environmental Leader Awards. The final deadline is December 15, 2017. Learn more here.

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