Rapid prototyping and its current and future uses in the construction industry

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At not-quite-thirty-one years old, the rapid prototyping process is just beginning to integrate itself as a mainstream utility in today’s marketplace. It has many different uses in areas of manufacturing, there are research and development advantages which stem from RP machines, and even the construction industry is beginning to see a transformation.
For those who have yet to consider such technology solutions, there are quite a few advantages worth considering. These advantages run the gamut from efficiency increase to the facilitation of greater competitive advantage, and it’s easy to see why once you understand the ins and outs of RP.
In a nutshell, RP solutions will allow you to basically take a concept from a computer model and print it in three dimensions. The machine builds your prototype, and quickly. You can avoid the costs involved in manufacturing through an existing factory, and you can more expediently troubleshoot your new device to ensure it works as it should.
As a tool of research and development for any company, RP machines are extremely useful; but for construction, in particular, this type of prototyping is making a big impact. Instead of weeks or months being necessary to prototype some complicated new innovation, the process can be done in days or hours. In reality, this is an exponential leap.

Numbers to consider

Just consider the costs involved in a single day of development. If you’ve got a team of designers working a regular shift, then you’ve got to have space for them, materials, and an allocation for regular insufficient results. If your design team is five strong, and their cost individually (including resources) is only $40 an hour, that’s $200 an hour.
A single day’s production becomes $1,600. For a five-day week, that’s $8k; or $32k a month. If R&D on a prototype requires three months, that’s $96k. If you can cut two months off that number, you’re saving $64k. Meanwhile, going the RP route will save many weeks—and even months—of design and development.

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With RP, it becomes possible to test prototypes with greater depth and intimacy than might otherwise be possible. If you’re spending three months just to build something, that’s still going to be followed by days, weeks, months, or even years of testing. The more you can reduce the time necessary for the development cycle, the better.

Implications

When you can create a more useful, effective, operable prototype with greater speed and reliability, naturally this makes that which you design competitive. One construction agency may build a bridge that collapses because they’re trying to rush deadlines. With an RP machine, you’re not just printing a prototype; you’re printing time. You can avoid rushing deadlines while still experiencing the expanded time necessary for full design.
You’ll be able to meet more deadlines quicker and provide greater quality. In some instances, you may come against an issue in construction which requires you to develop some new kind of apparatus. Having an RP in such an instance could be that which makes it possible for you to finish a project in-budget. Do the impossible and see your clientele expand! ProblProblem-solving venerated feature of agencies designing prototypes.

That said, such RP devices need not be limited to the development of prototypes. You can model entire communities that are in the works. New buildings, new additions, and more can all be simulated through RP tech. Think of it like this: with an RP machine, what you’ve got on the CAD screen can be projected into our multi-dimensional reality, and quick.
All these things only represent the beginning. Many businesses have already started using cloud applications for things like monitoring, research, and development. Some cloud arrays exceed a million individual servers. Imagine appending that kind of computational power to either a new machine’s design, an architectural issue, or the layout of a certain sort of multi-stage device.

The data component

Cloud computing has facilitated Big Data, which can provide real-time analytics pertaining to things like, say, the functionality of multiple production facilities across a massive geographical region. Such data can then be put to use optimizing a given business’s exploits. That same level of computational power is holographically expanding throughout the world.
It’s come to the point where software developments have facilitated some level of automation in RP machines. Contour Crafting is the term specifically associated with automation in the construction industry through RP tech. Basically, a robot located on a given construction site manipulates a nozzle that exudes exceptionally thin layers which are composed of different substances.

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Sometimes concrete is used, as an example. Plastic can also be used, as can adobe. Windows can be made. Doors can be made. Not everything, but quite a few things. Some would say that as much as half of the costs associated with the design and build of a structure can be shaved off with such methods.
Imagine being able to build a house, or even an entire community of them, around the clock. You could tier construction. As the machines finish one building, builders come through and put on the final touches—doors, windows, etc.

Riding the development tide

As technology continues its exponential forward climb, it’s only to be expected that prototyping solutions with this level of utility will be more and more common. A build that took six months and $600k may be reduced to three months and $300k with the same essential quality. That allows for the doubling of output with the same resources—provided, of course, the proper utility of this technology is exercised.
rapid prototyping
Ultimately, these implications are staggering. Any construction firm who jumps on the RP bandwagon stands to get ahead of its peers quickly, provided said innovation is correctly implemented. The truth is, technology is transforming the way construction happens at a steady rate. If you don’t innovate with this shift, you’ll likely be left behind.
It makes sense to have some aspect of operations devoted to R&D. You may find solutions like RP machines, which can save you money and time, increase your resources and expand competitiveness. You can bet that your competitors will be looking into this tech. If they find a utility for it before you do, then they’re likely to use it.

Practical observations

While the kinks haven’t all been ironed out yet, the trend is moving that direction. Your best bet would be to start small and find a way to justify the costs of such an upgrade. Once you’ve done that, then you can “level up”, as it were, and move on to the more in-depth application of such tech.

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Technology tends to have an exponentially expansive nature to it. A big change comes, then facilitates an even greater one, etc. Moore’s Law was constructed around computational processing power, which was posited to double at about 18-month intervals. Since the inception of this precept, advancement has held current.
Such computational advancement naturally trickles down to non-computational tech spheres. RP machines are a combination of computational and mechanical technology, but they are certainly in refinement. If you don’t get involved with them soon, the costs of transition may become greater later.

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Topics: Digital construction

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