Advances in 3D printing technology is seamlessly linking the digital and physical worlds. As a result, demand is surging across all spheres: from consumer applications in the home, to different sectors such as retail, healthcare and aviation.
Most construction project costs can be split into three categories: finance, materials and labour. 3D printing could potentially erase significant amounts of money in bringing construction projects to market, through shorter project times and fewer wasted resources.
This technology could replace certain parts of a number of labour intensive trades, including builders, electricians and plumbers. Overall, there are one million people employed in construction in Australia. Using 3D printers to create prototypes of early products, and fulfil small manufacturing orders could significantly impact a number of these workers.
Smaller companies with access to 3D printing services will be able to create their own prototype products and bypass parts of the manufacturing process, putting more power into the hands of start-ups.
However, there are indications 3D printing could create many more jobs. A technique known as Contour Crafting has already been developed which enables builders to create large projects using 3D printers – such as entire homes. Meanwhile, as 3D printers become more accessible they will start entering the home, allowing consumers to create their own products. The distribution of ‘blueprints’ for these products will inevitably become more valuable.
This is already starting. A recent Kickstarter campaign to fund a small, consumer-focused 3D printer blew past its $50,000 goal within hours, and raised more than $3 million. The demand is clearly here for 3D printing – and its popularity is set to transform the construction industry forever.