3D Printing Software and Services Market - A Global and Regional Analysis

24 Jan 2024

3D printing, or additive manufacturing, is a technology that creates three-dimensional objects by building up layers of material, typically using computer-aided design (CAD) software. 3D printing technology is now employed in the construction industry to create various structures and components, such as walls, roofs, and entire buildings. 

3D printing technology in construction offers multiple advantages over traditional construction methods. Through 3D printing, the construction process can become more efficient and quicker, complex geometries and shapes can be created quickly, and building components can be customized to specific site conditions or architectural designs, reducing the labor costs associated with constructing a building or structure. 

3D printing technology also contributes to sustainable construction practices by reducing waste generated during construction. 

This article will outline how 3D printing can transform the construction industry and the latest advancements in technology. 

How Does 3D Printing Work in Construction? 

The first step in printing a three-dimensional architectural structure is to create a 3D model of the building that includes details such as dimensions, material properties, and structural elements by integrating computer-aided design (CAD) software.   

Once the model has been created, it is "sliced" or modified into sets of instructions, aiding the 3D printer in building the layers of the structure. The slicing process is done using slicing software, such as Slic3r and Ultimate Cura, which reads the 3D model and converts it into a file format that the 3D printer can read. 

The 3D printer then builds the structure layer by layer using the sliced design, typically employing an extruder head that melts a thermoplastic material and deposits it in the desired shape. 

After printing, the structure may require post-processing steps like sanding, polishing, painting, or coating. Once all the components are printed, they are assembled on the construction site to form the final structure.  

Machinery Used in the Process 

For small-scale architectural models and prototypes: 

•    Extrusion-based printers employ a heated nozzle to melt a thermoplastic material, which is then extruded layer by layer to create the final structure. 

•    Vat polymerization printers use a liquid resin cured by ultraviolet (UV) light to create the final structure.  

•    Laminated object manufacturing (LOM) printers use sheets of material, such as paper or plastic, that are bonded together layer by layer to create the final structure.  

•    Directed energy deposition (DED) printers use a high-energy beam, such as a laser, to fuse or melt a powdered or wire-like material, which is then deposited layer by layer to create the final structure. 

Powder-based printers are commonly used to create large-scale architectural structures, such as walls, roofs, and even entire buildings that utilize a binder or glue to bind a powder-based material, such as concrete, layer by layer to create the final structure. 

List of recent technological developments in 3D printing for construction

  • Multi-material 3D printers are being developed to print with different types of materials, such as concrete and steel, in the same structure. It offers greater flexibility in the design and construction of buildings and structures. 

  • Robotic 3D printing technology is being experimented with for constructing buildings and structures in remote and hard-to-reach locations, where access to materials and labor is limited. This technology can also be used to repair and maintain existing structures. 

  • Building information modeling (BIM) has become popular in 3D printing, as it allows architects and engineers to plan, design, and construct buildings and structures effectively and to ensure that all components are correctly aligned and connected. 

  • 4D printing is a new development in 3D printing technology that involves the creation of materials that can change shape or properties in response to different stimuli, such as temperature, humidity, or light. This technology can potentially create smart products, self-assembling products, and self-healing materials. 

With advancing technology and the advantages of 3D printing, such as time and cost savings, the demand for 3D printing software and services is expected to rise. 

According to a report by BIS Research, the global 3D printing software and services market was valued at $9.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach $80.84 billion by 2031, growing at a CAGR of 24.3% between 2022 and 2031. 

World’s Largest 3D Printed Building 

The largest 3D-printed building in the world, constructed by Apis Cor, is in Dubai. It is an office building 9.5 meters high with 640 square meters of floor space. The construction company claimed that the building was completed with half of the labor usually employed, generating about 60% less waste than conventional construction methods. The 3D printing was held on-site, and the building was constructed in two weeks, quicker and more effective than the traditional construction process.  

Houston residential construction project: "Big laboratory" for testing the capability of 3D printing- H2 

Industrial-grade 3D printers are currently constructing a two-storied home in Houston. The project is undertaken by three construction companies in collaboration – U.S.-based Hannah, Cive, and Peri 3D Construction, based in Germany. The construction team is testing the industrial printers to their extreme capabilities, aiming to find cost-effective techniques to build well-planned and customized homes. 

According to Hikmat Zerbe, the head of structural engineering in Cive, the 3D printing technology can offer ample opportunities for progress in construction activities. The project has also been called a big laboratory for testing the limits and capabilities of 3D printing technology in building large-scale structures. 

Zerbe said, "It's a case study. We're learning the machine's capabilities and the material's reaction under different weather conditions. We're learning how to optimize the speed of printing." 

The Future of 3D Printing in Construction Industry

Issues with the shortage of skilled construction labor and infrastructure costs can be intelligently managed with 3D printing technology. With robotics and automation technologies integrated with artificial intelligence and machine learning, 3D printing is becoming pivotal in the construction industry. Advantages such as faster construction, low waste, reduced labor costs, and improved workplace safety are growing the demand for 3D printing technology.  

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