Printing your own installation parts
Printing your own installation parts seems like a dream but it's already possible these days. This will introduce a big change in many different branches. Although at the moment there are still a lot of downsides, but it looks like that's slowly changing.
The emergence of the 3D printer
The 3D printer is a commonly known device and it's already being used in many different areas of expertise. Imagine a kidney or chocolate coming out of a 3D printer! Almost everything you can imagine can be printed these days, even a whole house. So the question remains, can we also print installation parts? Of course we can! The thing is, no one has done it before, until now. According to futurologists this will have a big impact on the installation and build process. That's also the reason why installation company Unica Ecopower is already working hard with this new method. They've always wanted to print installation parts with the help of a 3D printer, but couldn't bring it to practice till now.
Everyone has a merit
All of the branch employees gathered during a seminar organized by Unica Ecopower on the 23rd of april to talk about the new 3D printing technology. Amongst others, there were contractor, suppliers, constructors, installers, project developers, architects, students and artists present at the seminar. One of the attending speakers was the CEO of Unica Ecopower, Jan-Maarten Elias. With a huge passion for his craft he delivers integral energy solutions for sustainable real estate. He was impressed by how much people attended the seminar. In the end it all boils down to one question. How will the 3D printer impact the construction costs? According to Jan-Maarten this could lower the overall costs, as printer will cause less need for raw materials, supply and dead capital.
Moore's law was introduced about fifty years ago. He predicted that the capacity of a computer will double every eighteen months. Even today this law is still relevant and maybe even applicable to the 3D printer! By making full use of this we can change the whole production chain, and we can do it fast too. This is only doable when there is enough critical mass. According to Unica Ecopower the printer is capable to print common but also unique parts fast. Besides that Jan-Maarten mentions that the law of Moore is actually catching up to us. According to Jan-Maarten all the electricians in the health, material and energy areas are displaying a great focus. Surely, an integral approach is what's expected. The buyer isn't looking for an 'installation', but he's looking for safety and comfort. This is only realistic and the suppliers want to take the product innovation as their own. Of course in the end organisations will have to open up to this integration.
From BIM to 3D printing
The CEO of Unica Ecopower received the title of 3D-BIM to 3D-print. In his presentation he told the attendees that the clients and architects use 3D-BIM as a starting point more often.
Together they make a BIM-model, which can be combined with a huge variety of other products. This amount can also be used for 3D printing, maintenance and administration. It doesn't only result in less tolerances, but it also causes lower failure costs. In any case, Unica Ecopower's goal is to gain experience with 3D printers in a fun and engaging way. Printing installation parts hasn't been done yet, but the organisation still has lot's of ambition to be the first to achieve it.
Supply will soon be redundant
The dutch manufacturer startup Leapfrog supplies different desktop printers of up to 5000 euro. According to Mathijs Kossen, the CEO of Leapfrog the adoption of the 3D printer will be dependant on the amount of materials one has available to print with. This amount grows every day, which is good news for everyone. Up till now it's possible to print plaster, nylon, wood, epoxy, polyester, ceramic, RVS, titanium, gold and sustainable plastics.In any case, Leapfrog's printers work with a thermoplast.
Combining different materials when printing is still expensive
Imagine the potential if you can print all the materials with just one machine. It's a beautiful dream, but today it's still pretty expensive to print different kinds of materials. Despite this fact it's possible in theory. The possibilities are there so only the costs are the downside. Up until today it's possible to get a printer that prints around 106 different materials, which is quite the achievement. Because of these possibilities a 3D printer can print an object that consists of different materials in one go. Kossen, the CEO of Leapfrog is looking forward to the day when every material can be printed. According to Kossen we will be able to print our own lamps, smartphones and other appliances. Now that will add value to our lives!
The way the market is developing
Between one extreme and the other, the market will evolve rapidly in the upcoming years. According to Kossen, thermoplastics will be one of the most useful materials. With this simple synthetic parts can be printed, which can then be applied by the installation branche. If this would be possible it would mean a huge breakthrough. Just think about all the tubes and curves that the plumber has to carry with him all day. These parts have to be in supply at all times, while most of the times they don't even have to be used. Besides that, they will also take up space in his van. How many parts does he have to carry with him everyday? Hundreds of them! But, a 3D printer and scanner can change this for ever. When the plumber needs a part, he can just print it and it would probably only take 15 to 30 minutes, and it can only get faster. Before you know it this too will be doable in around 5 minutes or even less. The advantages of a 3D printer are obviously enormous when we apply them to different areas.
Text: Ton Verheijen