What does the future of construction sites look like with 3D printing robots?

Michelle Stone Michelle Stone April 16, 2019

3 min read

construction machinery

Image courtesy of Pixabay


In the very recent past, it might have seemed like a page out of a child’s storybook, but today it’s real life: robots are coming to construction sites. And these robots aren’t just for fun. 3D printing robots have the opportunity to change (or even save) the industry, which is facing a shortage of skilled laborers amidst an increasingly high demand for private housing and public or professional buildings.


The idea of anthropomorphic robots swinging hammers around construction sites is exciting, but what does the future of construction sites look like with the combination of 3D printing and robotics?


3D Printing: Transforming the Construction Industry



Image courtesy of Pixabay


Aside from a labor shortage, construction faces other, complicated problems. It’s a business that depends on timeliness but is often plagued by delays and setbacks. 3D printing can save a lot of time, shortening a three-week job down to just a few days. Machines don’t take breaks to eat or sleep and are generally more efficient than their human counterparts.


Construction is also dangerous, especially for people without much experience. 3D printing drastically increases the overall safety while reducing the risk of injury to employees.


New and Exciting Methods



contour crafting

Image courtesy of BBC


One way you’ll see robots in construction is with extruders attached to the robotic arm and the entire robot mounted to a rail system installed on site to direct its motion. This method is called Contour Crafting. The arm moves back and forth to move the building material layer by layer, and then trowels help flatten and smooth out the layers. The building material is slightly different than traditional concrete. (More on that in a moment!)


Because 3D printing robotics is so popular, this burgeoning industry has a lot of competition and innovation. There are companies with mobile cranes and specialized building materials, machines printing multiple layers at one time, and countless features in between.


Different Materials for Different Needs


steel beams

Image courtesy of Pixabay


3D printing with robotics can take many different forms, and this includes the use of many materials. An Italian architect named Enrico Dini, for example, began using layers of sand. He laid out the sand by thickness, and then a 3D printer deposited the binding. While the machine is impressive, it is limited in scope (up to six cubic meters).


Other companies use Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM), which 3D prints metal structures and can weld. WAAM layers metal rods (including bronze, stainless steel, Inconel, and aluminum) together, similar to a soldering iron. Concrete and concrete-like materials are still a popular choice, too, already used to build everything from houses to cycle bridges.


A Bright Future for Construction


2018 brought with it a host of new developments for 3D printing, including houses that had been 3D printed in their entirety. Bicycle and pedestrian bridges are popping up with greater regularity. These kinds of projects look to become more and more common in the future.


Right now, Autodesk has robot and printing systems that can print huge metal objects. They’re relatively easy to package, which allows them to be sent from construction site to construction site, keeping up with demand with accurate and quick building times.


Autodesk plans to contribute to the development of 3D robotics on construction sites in other ways, too. With Fusion 360, whole teams can collaborate to advance the development of 3D robots that can build whole houses in a matter of weeks. With integrated CAM and simulation, Fusion 360 is the perfect program to build industry-changing machines.


Try Fusion 360 for free today…


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