3D printing has truly arrived. We’ve already seen the medical industry’s revolution begin with affordable prosthetics, and we are on the verge of printing functional human body parts. Indeed, 3D printing has already begun influencing almost every industry – automotive, entertainment, wearables, even the funeral industry.
The building industry is no exception. At first, individual building components were 3D printed – screws, planks, walls. Now, we’re seeing entire buildings. Recently, Dubai made the world’s first 3D-printed office building – including furnishings and interior design!
It’s not hard to understand the appeal. The Dubai office building took just 19 days to print and install. The total cost was $140,000 – half the cost of traditional building. Incredible, almost unbelievable stories like this are cropping up all over, for example one about a Chinese company 3D printing 10, single-story homes in under 24 hours.
For individual consumers, it’s an exciting time. For professionals in the building industry, it may also be an anxious time. We don’t yet know how the industry will be affected since 3D printing is really in its infancy despite some remarkable success stories. How will 3D printing affect manufacturing? Labor? Design? Some of these questions will be answered in the immediate future, but some won’t get answered for quite some time.
When it comes to our business, it will be a while before customers are asking for 3D-printed HVAC units. When they do, though, it could be with good reason. Here are some possibilities to look forward to:
- Architects may see a new era of design freedom. Cost and process limitations that push architects toward rectilinear forms may be broken down, making curvilinear design achievable on a more regular basis.
- Distributors may be able to stock products faster and more easily.
- HVAC contractors may be able to acquire products faster and more easily, and at even more convenient locations.
- End-users may be able to enjoy true customization, designing colors and images like photographs and favorite quotations directly into their homes and appliances.
We’re not 3D printing our products just yet – don’t get too excited – but our very own Mitsubishi Electric Research Laboratories (MERL) is doing cutting-edge research on 5D printing, keeping Mitsubishi Electric at the front of the pack during this amazing period of technological advancement.