Mega-Scale 3D Printing Is Here

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Mega-scale 3D printing has arrived:

The D-Shape technology uses a patented magnesium-based binding process to adhere sand or other construction materials together to form an artificial sandstone. The stone produced is reportedly indistinguishable from real marble, chemically environmentally friendly, and has a resistance and traction superior to portland cement. Kushner plans to source aggregate from the local area to use for his material.

With a build box of 6 x 6 x 6 meters, or about 19.7 x 19.7 x 19.7 feet, the D-Shape printer is reportedly the world’s largest 3D printer. Kushner’s house is considerably larger than the approximate 400-square-foot structure that can be built within this build box, so he’s designing the house so it can be printed in sections.

D-Shape Printer

Why would architects and contractors want to use the D-Shape 3D printing process rather than traditional building construction techniques?

Two primary reasons are the same reasons that many manufacturers in various industries are rapidly embracing 3D printing: increased design freedom and financial savings. Constructing a house, or other structure, using 3D printing allows for more advanced and intricate designs, some of which would be considerably more challenging or impossible to construct using traditional building techniques. Additionally, the “realization costs of D-Shape structures are 30%-50% lower than manual methods,” according to D-Shape’s website.

Furthermore, increased safety is a factor. The construction industry has one of the highest incidents of injuries and mortalities. Automating much of the building process means a substantially reduced risk of accidents.

If these advantages are, indeed, eventually realized, it’s easy to understand why Kushner fervently believes that “3D printing will result in a paradigm shift in the way we design and build structures.”


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    The picture, of course, shows conventional construction and inadvertently reveals a problem: strength of materials. Low-rise buildings can be (and were) built out of air-dried clay bricks (à la the Exodus story). But high-rises, meaning anything over two stories, require stronger materials. 3D printing won’t scale up unless there is a major breakthrough in materials, which is not likely.

  2. Marc Pisco says:

    I like the “safety” bit. Sure, I guess unemployment is safer than working.

  3. This system alone is more of an experiment or gimmick than anything (an interesting one, admittedly). I definitely think automated construction of buildings, including high-rises, is feasible in the near-to-mid term. The key is a combination of approaches, including the automated assembly of prefabricated components (steel framing, for instance) and additive manufacturing techniques like this.

    I guess you could LENS the framing up too, but it seems pointless and wasteful considering that foundries can churn that stuff out at a rate of many feet a minute.

    Right now there’s a lot of obsession with 3D printing as a solution to everything, and a lot of people are boosting it just because it’s new and whizz-bang. Others, correctly noting that it is inefficient and impractical for many industrial processes, dismiss it altogether. This argument between “best thing since sliced bread!” and “practically useless novelty” is common with new technologies, and both sides are very mistaken.

  4. CMOT says:

    For a real world revolutionary construction techique, do a little search for “robotic shotcrete”. A much bigger deal than this, but there’s no PR firm doing all the work for the media …

  5. David Foster says:

    Re Scipio’s comment, there is an awful lot of hype on 3-D printing going on these days, much of it by people who know nothing about existing manufacturing processes and have made no attempt to think through what would actually be involved in producing various commonplace products via 3-D printing.

    I bet if someone were to create a video of a common, garden-variety CNC milling machine at work, and attach it to a press release calling it a hot new technology, he could get a lot of media coverage…in business as well as general media.

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