Much of the efficiency of prefab comes from computer-assisted design, arming designers with the digital tools needed to complete project after project. Still, traditional construction methods are required to get the job done. In the last few years 3D printing has edged its way closer to the forefront as a marker of cutting edge technology, printing everything from shoes and apparel to food (yes, food!) and it’s been steadily making its way into home building – most notably Prefab. The very nature of prefab is simplified, high quality construction in less time than traditional building methods, so the incorporation of 3D printing was a natural progression in a bid to make the whole process even more streamlined.
3D printing involves large, multidirectional printers loaded with materials that take cement, resin and various metals instead of ink. Layer by layer, structures of various shapes and sizes can come to life in mere minutes; without longer times for larger products like homes and structures. This innovative process has already seen the construction of a few homes and building around the world, with companies like WinSun (based in China) producing structures like multi level mansions that still meet safety standards for livable homes.
Another Chinese company ZhuoDa truly has the right idea about merging the worlds of 3D printing and prefab construction, recently erecting a 2-storey villa using the technology. Six separate “modules” were created using 3D printing, then shipped to the build site to be constructed. The whole process took approximately 3 hours and onlookers were then invited inside to check out the home’s sturdy interior.
With prefab construction, one of the main selling points is already the time factor, cutting building times nearly in half depending on the structure you’re looking to build. Adding 3D printing to the mix could drastically cut this time down even more to weeks or days from the design stage to the final touches. It also reduces the ecological footprint of any building project, as waste is virtually non-existent and minimal labour is required in the constructing process.
Though these projects require massive, specifically designed printers, once a prefab building company or factory owns one the manufacturing possibilities are endless. Creating a more “automated” process in this way will also make prefab building and homes more accessible, which can do much in the way of providing more options for affordable housing. Prefab building isn’t going away anytime soon, so it’s definitely worth exploring all the new and innovative ways the process can be even more efficient than ever before.