Applications of additive manufacturing in the construction industry
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Additive Manufacturing (AM) or 3D printing, the process of fabricating components in a layer-wise fashion, has been increasingly applied in industries such as automotives and aerospace. In the 1990s, interest from the construction industry evolved through several experimental applications looking to reduce labor cost, waste material, or create complex shapes that are difficult to build using conventional construction methods. However, the full range of potential applications for construction have not been explored, and the industry’s involvement with AM is still considered at its early stages. As a first step, this thesis provides an extensive literature review of AM as it relates to the construction industry. This research identifies the most significant AM processes, compared to subtractive or formative processes, as well as some technologies and materials being used. A recommendation is given for potential advancements in applications for construction. The thesis also explores the use of typical small-scale material extrusion desktop 3D printers to print and test customized fastener-free connections. The intent of these connection tests is to explore novel ways in which AM technology can be used for structural and non-structural applications using commercial polymers. The connections were inspired by traditional wood joinery and modern proprietary connections. A four-point bending test was used to evaluate their potential structural performance in bending and to identify connection types that could be used for future investigations. Before AM can realize its full potential, interdisciplinary research is still needed to provide new materials, reliable printed parts, and new and repeatable processes. This thesis provides initial steps toward this goal by finding research gaps, identifying research trends in the area, and by exploring initial benefits and limitations for non-structural and structural applications in construction using available small-scale AM technology.