The construction industry is embracing more technology and the introduction of 3D printing is one current example. 3D buildings are made by what is essentially a massive 3D printer. The printer consists of a robotic base which has 360 degrees of motion and a smaller arm that prints out various building materials. 3D printed buildings are not common in today’s society but 3D printing technology holds great potential in the construction industry. When companies research 3D printing technology in the construction field they become eligible to obtain a Research and Development Tax Credit.
The Research & Development Tax Credit
Enacted in 1981, the federal Research and Development (R&D) Tax Credit allows a credit of up to 13 percent of eligible spending for new and improved products and processes. Qualified research must meet the following four criteria:
- New or improved products, processes, or software
- Technological in nature
- Elimination of uncertainty
- Process of experimentation
Eligible costs include employee wages, cost of supplies, cost of testing, contract research expenses, and costs associated with developing a patent. On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the bill making the R&D Tax Credit permanent. Beginning in 2016, the R&D credit can be used to offset Alternative Minimum tax and startup businesses can utilize the credit against $250,000 per year in payroll taxes.
Saint-Gobain, a French multinational corporation, entered a partnership with Impulse Labs, a business incubator which has helped Saint-Gobain expand. Since beginning their partnership in 2015, Impulse Labs has helped Saint-Gobain specialize in digital construction, construction and energy, well-being through property, social housing and infrastructures and mobility uses. Through Impulse Labs, Saint-Gobain recently worked with XtreeE, a startup that designed a 3D printer specializing in using concrete to create intricate architecture. By using an XtreeE printer at one of their civil sites, Saint-Gobain has shown the world they are ready to embrace the future of construction technology.
Researchers at MIT have developed a system that can 3D print a basic building in just 14 hours. MIT calls this system “Digital Construction Platform“. It is designed to be fully automatic but currently requires human interaction for safety reasons. The whole machine can be powered by electricity or through solar panels. This technology could lead to faster, less expensive and more adaptable construction than ever before. The flexible nature of the machine can create an object to any specification compared to traditional 3D printers. MIT researchers say their goal is to get their system to the developing word or disaster relief areas to provide quick shelter.
Apis Cor is a startup that is famous for 3D printing a 400-square-foot house, using $10,000 worth of material and a 3D printing robot. Weighing only 2 tons, Apis Cor’s 3D printer is an incredibly mobile printer that requires only 2 people for operation control. Using the Apis Cor printer is also more cost-effective than traditional methods because it involves less labor and logistics. Prior to construction, an Apis Cor system is pre-programmed to construct foundation works with heavy concrete and frame construction with a ferroconcrete base. Apis Cor can provide insulation by creating ventilated facades and adding an additional layer to fill with foam insulation. The material used for walls is self insulating and can be additionally insulated with any suitable material. Founder of Apis Cor Nikita Chen-yun-tai wants to print buildings in every continent and be one of the first to start building on Mars.
Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and MIT have developed a way to 3D print objects with adjustable macro and micro scale porosity using a ceramic foam material. The ceramic foam is made of alumina particles, water and air. Researchers optimize the foams microstructure then continue to print hexagonal and triangular honeycombs with adjustable geometry, density and stiffness. The result is a lightweight structural material that can be used for thermal insulation.
3D Print Canal House
3D Print Canal House is a project site where DUS Architects researches science, design, construction and community by 3D printing a canal house in the heart of Amsterdam. Intern Rob van der Burg and DUS Architects worked together to find an efficient way to insulate the 3D printed canal house. The solution they came up with was to fill a piece of the canal house with straw and infect it with mycelium of the oyster mushroom. When mature, the mycelium acts as an insulator and an adhesive to hold the straw together. Once Van Der Burg and DUS architects are done with their research, mycelium will act as insulation throughout the entire 3D printed canal house.
3D printed buildings are built faster and cost less than traditional buildings. The significant decrease of cost and time to build a simple home, with adequate insulation, could be the solution for ending homelessness in impoverished areas. Using these revolutionary 3D printers, buildings can be made to any specification and will allow architects to have more freedom when designing their projects. All of these technological developments could lead to a boom in the construction industry and provide safe homes for millions of people.
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Charles Goulding of R&D Tax Savers discusses 3D printed buildings and insulation.