3D printing is often hailed as a revolutionary technology. It might become the next home computer or desktop printer — both of which changed the way we work and play. The evolution of computers sets a precedent for how 3D printers will progress: before the PC and Macintosh came along, scientists used enormous mainframe computers that took up entire rooms. The research that miniaturized these technologies to make them consumer-ready was what really changed the world.
That is the impetus behind a development agreement between construction company Skanska, London architecture firm Foster + Partners, and researchers at Loughborough University (LU). The collaboration aims to bring 3D printing to architecture, by refining a prototype robotic printer and establishing the supply chain necessary for the printing process. Skanska, along with Foster + Partners, has already been developing the technology in conjunction with Buchan Concrete and Lafarge Tarmac.
In order for 3D printing to realize its potential as a limitless technology for the masses, the companies creating the printers need to improve their resolution for consumer-grade printers and make them more affordable. NASA has just recently printed an object in space, while several small residences have been built at “low-resolution,” i.e., with minimal detail. Currently, 3D printing technology is still in the phase of experimentation and largely relegated to the realm of the fantastic, but Foster and the firm’s collaborators want to change that. (…)