Sustainability | Renewable Energy

Sustainable 3D Printing for Construction

5 Ways 3D Printing Is Improving Construction Sustainability


The current housing crisis has left countless without homes and new builds sap a lot of resources from the planet. However, 3D printing could be the saving grace construction needs. These machines could print beams, polymers, and concrete substitutes layer by layer using robots and automation. It’s time to revolutionize the sector by lowering its carbon footprint with 3D printing.

1. Reduced Material Waste


Sustainable 3d Printing For ConstructionChopping down trees or refining metals produces countless pounds of waste to mold it into a usable form. 3D printers create everything builders need immediately, using only what is necessary to make the product with little to no waste as a byproduct.

Because 3D printers are optimized and programmed, it is less likely there will be defects that result in throwaway prototypes. Additionally, the ability to create necessary building parts on-site instead of shipping them removes the possibility of damage in transport.

Conventional construction invites clear-cutting forests, leaving stumps in its wake. It also unearths soil and rock to throw away for the more valuable ore mined below. There is raw material excess and also contaminant waste in the form of pollution.


2. Energy Efficiency


3D printing is energy intensive, but it’s nothing compared to typical stick-built structures. First, building materials are heavy. They use a lot of energy and power to move, and just as printing materials on-site can save waste, it can also save power.

Industry experts can also blend 3D printing equipment with renewable energy, potentially rendering the products carbon-neutral. Businesses that do this while pairing print jobs with reclaimed and recycled materials compound energy savings by eliminating energy used in a project’s extraction and processing phases.


3. Use of Sustainable Materials


Materials for 3D printers come in a variety of eco-friendly flavors. Polylactic acids are highly malleable and diverse, with plenty of bio-based feedstocks available to create them, including:

> Corn starch

> Sugar cane

> Tapioca

> Rice

These are renewable options. Polyethylene terephthalate glycol is one of several plastics that are recyclable. It makes demolishing, retrofitting or repairing buildings greener, especially when these projects are extremely wasteful and damaging to the environment. Recent research even attempts to supplement carbon-intensive materials like concrete with recycled waste glass to reduce this necessary foundational material’s carbon footprint.


4. Design Optimization


Forging an entirely 3D-printed neighborhood requires robust, intricate designs. Some may believe drafting the blueprint could be a more complex operation than age-old methods, but design optimization is a major win for this next-gen technology.

Printers can integrate with machine learning and AI-driven drafting programs to create even more reinforced and climate-resilient infrastructure leveraging 3D-printed materials. This is necessary for making homes and commercial buildings that last. In an age of increased natural disasters, it’s essential to mitigate damage as much as possible to prevent waste and resource use during recovery.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, 83% of construction contractors had project delays and these disruptions’ effects are still felt. Streamlining any aspect of the process is necessary to keep up with demand and keep environmental impacts to a minimum. Unoptimized designs generate a lot of waste, extend timelines, and use excess resources due to human error or other production mistakes.


5. Reduced Construction Time


A traditional build could take up to eight months to finish. A 3D-printed project’s timeline will vary, but it could be finished within two to seven weeks, depending on its square footage. Construction projects that overstay their welcome end up putting more stress on the planet.

They do this by consolidating logistics and supply chain operations — all emitting tons of carbon with fleets and fuel. Building projects that stand out in the elements for long periods are bound to receive some wear and tear from rain or wind, diminishing the result. 3D printing saves these aspects while keeping prints in potentially controlled environments.

3D Printing Sustainable Futures


3D printing is not without its environmental shortcomings. Not every print is perfect, which could result in some waste. Additionally, air pollutants are a concern for some types of machinery. However, the gains are too numerous to ignore. It could not only create more homes more efficiently, but 3D printing could do it with a lower carbon footprint than conventional stick-built methods.


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