Alyssa Dennis

Two main aims of the housing community are to solve for the labor challenge and to make product that is more attainable to a broader customer. And two technologies have appeared to move housing forward in solving both of those challenges - 3D printing and prefabrication.

Here is a dive into what is driving both now and their potential impact.

While software reshapes construction's digital landscape, there are two technologies poised to reshape the industry's physical landscape: prefabricated construction and 3D printing.

Prefab construction is a process modeled off modern manufacturing best practices. It involves fabricating the majority of a structure in an offsite factory, and then shipping those pieces to be easily assembled on site. The process is employed in creating both residential and commercial structures.

3D printing refers to a variety of techniques that are used to print a physical structure. The technology is developing rapidly, and materials as diverse as concrete, metal, and resin are currently used to build entire structures like bridges and houses, as well as individual building components.

The benefits to both construction methods are numerous. They can each reduce supply costs, decrease build times, simplify project planning, and create greener processes and greener buildings.

While they haven't hit the mainstream quite yet, both methods are already making serious waves in the AEC industry, with several major 2017 breakthroughs. Below is a small sample of the stories that made headlines last year:

The world's first 3D printed, plastic footbridges were built in China.
The footbridges debuted at the Digital Future Shanghai Summer Workshop and Conference. Made from modified plastic and built on a robotic platform, the 11 meter bridge can hold up to 5 adults at once.

Technical University Munich 3D prints unprecedented lightweight cement pipes.
Inspired by the natural structure of bird bones, TUM designed a 3D printed, lightweight cement pipe with a network of internal supports. The team used a process called selective binding to create the design, which would be impossible to fabricate otherwise.

A prefabricated house took five hours to build in rural Spain.
This modular house was built over four months in a factory 600 miles from the site. Comprised of eight total modules, the two story house was able to be assembled in five hours once the pieces arrived. The dwelling is also designed to be easily dissembled and transported if desired.

An Insider's Perspective on Prefabricated Construction

For an inside look at how prefab construction and 3D printing are shaping the construction industry, we sat down for an interview with Sandy Anuras the VP of Technology at blokable.

Blokable is working to increase access to quality housing through prefabricated construction. The company manufactures 'Bloks' that can be configured into a range of designs at scale.

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