Opportunities for metal 3D printing in structural engineering
Leroy Gardner 1,2, Craig Buchanan 1,2 and Wing Wan 1
1 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London, London, UK
2 Data Centric Engineering Programme, Alan Turing Institute, London, UK
3D printing, more formally known as additive manufacturing (AM), has the potential to revolutionise the construction industry, with anticipated benefits including greater structural efficiency, reduced material consumption and wastage, streamlining and expedition of the design-build process, enhanced customisation, greater architectural freedom and improved accuracy and safety on-site. Unlike traditional manufacturing methods for construction products, metal 3D printing offers ready opportunities to create non-prismatic sections, internal stiffening, openings, functionally graded elements, variable microstructures and mechanical properties through controlled heating and cooling and thermally-induced prestressing. It is envisaged that AM will complement, rather than replace, conventional production processes, with clear potential for hybrid solutions and structural strengthening and repairs. These opportunities are explored in this paper, along with early applications of metal additive manufacturing in the construction industry and other engineering disciplines.
3D printing; Additive manufacturing; Applications; Metal; Review; Structural engineering