Publications / 2019 Proceedings of the 36th ISARC, Banff, Alberta, Canada

3D Printing Architectural Freeform Elements: Challenges and Opportunities in Manufacturing for Industry 4.0

Marjo Niemelä, Anqi Shi, Sara Shirowzhan, Samad Sepasgozar and Chang Liu
Pages 1298-1304 (2019 Proceedings of the 36th ISARC, Banff, Alberta, Canada)

Three-dimensional (3D) printing, as one of the additive manufacturing (AM) technologies, is transforming the design and manufacture of products and components across a variety of disciplines, however, architectural design and the construction industry have only recently begun to adopt these technologies for construction purposes. AM is considered one of the core technological advances in the paradigm shift to Industry 4.0 (the fourth industrial revolution). This term used to describe digitization and automation of the manufacturing environment and is widely recognized as a disruptive technology that could transform architectural design and the construction industry. The potential advantages of 3D printing in the construction sector are significant. They include not only improved environmental and financial resource efficiencies, but also, the capacity to produce complex customized designs for aesthetic and structural applications. As the cost of building houses continues to rise, it is crucial to find innovative ways to build houses efficiently and cost effectively. The earliest records of 3D printing date back to the 1980’s and many industries—from manufacturing to medicine—were early adopters of the technologies resulting in many significant technological advances in those sectors from organ printing to aircraft fabrication. Currently available 3D printing technologies can be adopted for building construction and this paper discusses the applications, advantages, limitations and future directions of 3D printing as a viable solution for affordable house construction with a focus on printing architectural freeform elements. 3D printing offers a new and innovative method of house construction. For this study, an analytical, as well as a numerical model were specifically designed for 3D printing. Previous studies conducted found that the construction of a 3D printed truss-like roof in a cement mixture with high-density polyethylene (HDPE), spanning the entire structure, was structurally feasible in the absence of steel reinforcements. These results led us to investigate the feasibility of 3D printing an entire house without the use of reinforcements. Investigations were also performed on comparing flat-roof and arch-roof structures and found that whilst maximum tensile stresses within flat-roof would cause the concrete truss structure to fail, the HDPE cement mix in an arch-roof structure had reduced the maximum tensile stresses to an acceptable range to withstand loadings. At the time of writing this paper, several 3D printing techniques could be adopted for the purposes of 3D printing an entire house, and the team believes that future adaptations of existing technologies and printing materials could eliminate the current limitations of 3D printing and become common practice in house construction.

Keywords: 3D printing; design; architectural freeform elements; construction; Fusion 360 Software; G-code; human-interface; Industry 4.0