Singapore wants to 3D print skyscrapers

Just like Lego.
Just like Lego.
Image: Reuters/Thomas White
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In the future, constructing skyscrapers may be as simple as following the instructions on a Lego model—albeit on a much grander scale.

The city-state of Singapore has invested S$150 million (roughly $100 million) into the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing at Nanyang Technological University to test out 3D printing concrete blocks on a large scale. According to 3DPrint, the school is looking into building new printers to create the blocks. “In the area of housing there are quite big challenges,” Chua Chee Kai, the center’s director, told 3DPrint. “There is no assistance of 3D printers and no availability of printable concrete. We have to develop all this from scratch.”

Chua said the goal will be to create printed, interlocking concrete blocks that can be made anywhere, shipped to a building site, and assembled, much like Lego. The school’s newest dorms were actually built with prefabricated blocks, 3DPrint pointed out, but they were constructed using traditional methods, rather than 3D printed.

3D printing has been heralded to have the potential to create a “new era in manufacturing.” There have even been some recent successes in 3D printing with concrete, as well as 3D printing entire buildings, but until it’s cheaper or more efficient than traditional manufacturing techniques, there’s not really a reason to do it. According to GovInsider, however, Singapore faces an aging population, relying heavily on migrant workers for large construction problems. 3D printing could solve these manpower issues, efficiently pumping out new housing projects as needed.