For those still wondering if there has been a real-world deployment of 3D printing technology, other than in the healthcare and manufacturing sectors, L&T Construction, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Larsen & Toubro conglomerate has achieved that milestone in the construction industry.
L&T validated the use of 3D printing in a two-storey building in India, near Chennai. The construction company claimed that the making of the 3D printed building is the very first of its kind in India, and has massive potential to significantly alter affordable housing – in terms of cost, quality and speed of construction.
3D printing, a process, in which the material is printed under computer control to build a 3-dimensional product, is used some industry verticals such as manufacturing and healthcare, in most other industries, it has not taken off to its full potential. In fact, in a sector like construction in which durability is paramount, 3D printing in is still largely work in progress across the globe.
MV Satish, senior executive vice-president at L&T Construction, claims that not only will 3D printing speed up the manufacturing of multi-floor constructions, but actually improve the quality and durability of houses. The base material of the building, used as input material for the 3D printer, is described by the company as “a special, in-house developed concrete mix using indigenously available regular construction materials.”
The automated 3D printer reportedly consumed 106 working hours to come up with a building. This stands for about four and a half days of building time if the printer worked non-stop, and for average human labor time, would amount to close to two weeks.
This showcases a key benefit of using such a technology instead of human labour – 3D printers at construction sites can work for longer hours without human aspects such as work hour regulations, fatigue, risks of work, shift timings and so on. This can also drastically speed up the process of building, while maintaining the quality of construction.
L&T further states that the printing process also included vertical reinforcement bars (the main support pillars and beams) and horizontal “distributors” (or floor levels) using welded mesh. This, L&T claims, meets “provisions in the Indian Codes and optimized cost of construction.” In other words, 3D printing technology in construction can potentially meet regulatory requirements as well as offer operational benefits to companies who would use the new technology in building processes.
Earlier in November 2019, L&T had 3D printed 240 sq. feet 1 BHK, in line with typical EWS building layout, to explore the feasibility of this innovative technology. Now, the two-storey building covers an area of almost three times the first trial apartment (with 700 square feet built-up area), and also exhibits if 3D printing can make buildings with multiple floors – an aspect that is crucial for affordable housing.
With the country aggressively pursuing the objective of creating 60 million houses under the Housing for All by 2022 program, this achievement will certainly give a huge boost to the mass housing segment.