CHENNAI: Imagine taking a ‘print out’ of your house and living in it. Going by the scale and possibilities being opened up by 3-D printing, this can happen any time soon.
The technology is expected to save cost, labour, time, and material. Countries like China, Germany, South Korea, and the US are already using the technology and research is on to develop advanced techniques. The academia and industry in India are taking efforts to understand and develop methods and materials to suit the Indian customer.
3-D printing or additive manufacturing is a technology of making a product by laying down successive layers of a material to create a 3-dimensional object under computer control. The technology is being used in sectors such as medicine, aerospace, jewellery, automobile, and architecture.
But, experts in the field of concrete construction said it would take a decade for India to see a 3-D printed houses as the technology is relatively new.
On Tuesday, more than 20 members of the academia, construction industry, and foreign experts brainstormed to come up with a roadmap to work together on the technology. A forum would also be formed for the purpose.
Experts from countries like the US, Switzerland, Germany and France on Monday gave an update on the techniques and advancements in 3-D printing of concrete developed and adopted in their countries in a symposium on ‘3-D Printing in Concrete’ organised by the Indian Concrete Institute (ICI), Chennai Center, at IIT Madras.
“If the industry comes with a way of taking this forward, we will look into how we, as academia, can support. Maybe for experimental purpose, it may take another five years to build a 3-D printed house, but to see something big, it may take a decade,” said Prof Ravindra Gettu, associate dean, industrial consultancy and sponsored research (ICSR), IIT Madras.
According to experts in the field, Indian industry is facing challenges in developing a suitable material, automation and software to use the technology on a commercial scale. “Construction has saturated in developed countries and the maximum construction is going to happen in Asia, particularly India. Our aim is to promote good concrete construction in the country and fill up all gaps in technology and its transfer,” said Manamohan R Kalgal, president, ICI.
Few Indian companies have already taken the lead and have begun research and development. Cement manufacturer Ultratech has begun research to develop a combination of material for concrete suitable for 3-D printing in India.
The R&D wing of Larsen and Tourbro is now working on automation. “Automation is producing all products needed to construct a building structure that can be assembled on site and dismantled. Research work is also on for recycling concrete,” said B Sivarama Sarma, head, research and construction, L&T Construction.
In some countries, 3-D printing has moved beyond just building a structure and is being used to add architectural aesthetics to building. ‘Bloom’ in California is the largest 3-D printed cement structure which demonstrates the ‘architectural potential’ of the technology. The nine-foot tall structure was assembled with more than 800 3-D printed blocks,” said Alexander Mcleod Schofield from the University of California, Berkeley, US.
“In 3-D printing of concrete, we are just beginning and the cost factor depends on the application. Construction of a 3D printed building in-situ will take time. I see that immediate application of this technology could be on making formwork, tiles and facades,” said Prof S P Shah, Northwestern University, US.
credits ET Realty