Writing for Forbes, Richard A. D’Aveni weighs in on how he perceives the economic impact of 3D printing on the construction industry:
Take construction. It’s a huge industry worldwide, accounting for $9 trillion in revenues and 6% of global GDP. It’s also been a technology laggard, with productivity barely rising over the past few decades. Even with digital blueprints and other fancy software programs, we still put up buildings pretty much as we did a century ago.
3D printing represents a true paradigm shift for the built environment, promising real disruption to the industry over the next couple decades. Combined with advances in material science, 3D printing offers a number of benefits:
Those buildings will also be a lot cheaper to construct. Because everything is digital, we’ll rely on robot printers to do much of the work. Already the Institute for Advanced Architecture in Gaudi’s home town of Barcelona has developed “minibuilders,” an experimental array of small robots that swarm around and put up a building in less time and at lower cost than it would take human workers. The process also generates a lot less waste. And this isn’t just about making dull concrete structures. The robots also work with composites of wood, plastic, and metal.
That’s for building on site, but if you prefabricate the structures and ship them over, you get even greater savings. Prefabrication has been around for a while, but 3D printing allows for such precision that the assembly process is literally a snap. Saudi Arabia, whose population is exploding, is talking with Winsun about printing as many as 1.5 million housing units over the next five years. Winsun thinks this technology could eventually go a long way to solve the global scourge of substandard housing.
Folks, the handwriting is on the wall. Ignore it at your own peril.