3D printing comes to the building and construction industry

Boston, Mass. – 3D printing for buildings is no longer a novelty as the building and construction industry uses the new technology to produce customized niche parts and enhance design flexibility, and even to save on construction time and cost, according to Lux Research. 3D printing is transforming a wide range of products from aerospace to consumer goods. Now buildings are becoming part of the portfolio, as leading architecture firms such as China’s Yasha and China Vanke have firmed up plans to deploy the technology. “Many 3D printing applications in construction, such as interior decorations and lighting optics, are commercial,” said Jerrold Wang, Lux Research Associate and the lead author of the report titled, “Exploring the Opportunity for 3D Printing in Building and Construction.”

“Challenges abound – such as developing the appropriate materials and meeting building codes – but so do opportunities to save construction time and enable design flexibility,” he added. Lux Research analysts evaluated innovators in the emerging 3D printing landscape in the building and construction industry. Among their findings: Printer/ink innovators rank high. Of the 13 innovative companies Lux Research evaluated in structural components, the top five were all developing printer and ink technology, and rank high in “technology originality.” Partnerships, like Contour Crafting's pilot project with NASA, are also critical. Only two firms make the cut in non-structural components. Of the 12 candidates Lux Research evaluated in this segment, most were found weak in technology originality or at a very early stage in commercialization.

Only two – LUXeXcel and Solaveil – possessed proprietary technologies as well as established products, partners and external funding. Three building applications are most mature. Lux Research evaluated the maturity of 12 building application areas for 3D printing, using three criteria: desire for design flexibility, requirement for product accuracy, and material diversification. Only three areas – decoration, lighting and furniture – were found commercially mature. The report, titled “Exploring the Opportunity for 3D Printing in Building and Construction,” is part of the Lux Research Sustainable Building Materials Intelligence service.

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