3D printing: a new hope for architecture

3D printing: a new hope for architecture

Although 3D-printing techniques were not an overnight sensation, today it has turned fantasy into reality

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DUS Architects built a 3D-printed cabin in Amsterdam using biodegradable plastic.
Photo: City University of Hong Kong

Over the past 30 years, 3D printing has developed rapidly. In the near future, you may be able to customise your ideal home and print it out!

You may have heard of Chuck Hull, the father of 3D printing. He invented stereolithography – a form of 3D printing – in 1983, and founded a company three years later. Although the technology was not an overnight sensation, today it turns fantasy into reality, providing a huge boost for many sectors, such as health and medicine, and even for the architecture industry.

Converting ideas into reality

In 2014, the Chinese company WinSun completed the first-ever 3D-printed, full-scale house within 24 hours. This summer, DUS Architects built a 3D-printed cabin in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands. A fully functioning office, including interior furniture, was also built in 17 days in Dubai earlier this year. This building, a temporary office for museum staff, will be able to host exhibitions. These achievements hold great promise for the future, especially in terms of providing temporary refuge for people.

3D printing offers major advantages with regard to the environment, time and labour. For example, WinSun and DUS Architects used construction waste and biodegradable plastic, respectively, as building materials. It can also shorten construction time by 50 to 70 per cent, and saves labour costs, as the printers are the major “construction crews”. This allows companies to overcome the current labour shortage in the construction industry.

Exploring 3D printing

Students at City University of Hong Kong can explore 3D printing thanks to the latest technology provided by CityU’s Office of Education Development and Gateway Education. This technology has indeed fuelled our imagination, so it’s time for us to “print” our future!

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