3D Printing: Can The Building Industry Survive This Technological Breakthrough?

The future is right around the corner….or is it already here? A wise man once said “If it can be dreamed up and believed, it can become reality”. Well he was right! But did he ever think that it would lead to this?

Albert-Einstein

Welcome to the technological age of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and 3D printing. Click here for more information on BIM. Click here to watch a 3D printer in action. Be prepared to be amazed! NOTE: There are numerous videos on YouTube, the one chosen was at random.

What is 3D printing you ask? I asked the very same question when I first heard of it. I thought it was a typo! It just does not seem possible. Someone believed in it, dreamed it up and made it a reality. Now what are we going to do with it?

3D printers are being used to print just about anything you can think of: Human organs (yes, you read that right), tools, prototypes, even buildings. The possibilities are endless. Imagine if you could create a computer model of anything and print it out! Well that is what is happening now. These printers are even available to the consumer now.

I was just starting to accept this idea and the potential it has. Then I read an article from Environment Design and Construction magazine that totally changed my perspective on 3D printing. As someone who goes to great measures to do my part to help preserve the environment and influence others to do so, I was totally oblivious to just how powerful and real this concept is.

The article was titled “Printing and the Future of Design” by James D. Qualk, LEED AP BD+C. What I read was simply incredible and it got me thinking about the future of the building component industry. Will the industry be able to sustain 3D printing? Will there be a need for trusses in the future?

As we get more aware of the damage we cause the environment, the answer may well be “no”. Imagine for a minute if you could “print” your next home, that you designed yourself. Sure, this may seem far-fetched right now to some of us. However, to our children and our grandchildren, this will become a reality.

I still remember the first time I heard the term “e-mail”. Yes, I am showing my age now! I was a kid in school and I thought it was just another way the postal service handled mail. Then came the Commodore 64, remember those? Yet here I am, ready to embrace a mechanism that can print out a tool, a building, even an organ! Wow folks. The ingenuity of humans is simply too much to fathom.

The questions left in my mind are these:

  1. Will there be a need for building components in the future?
  2. How will this type of innovation affect the current system of building practices?
  3. When this proves to be more sustainable than methods, will our government have any choice but to adopt it?

Some say that 3D printers will be what will allow humans to reside on the moon or distant planets. What do you say? Are you ready for this type of innovation? Why or why not?

Christopher Gould – President

Gould Design, Inc.