Wells' first foray into manufacturing a project using 3D printed molds was an unmitigated success in many ways. The project was the University Of Minnesota Pioneer Hall in Minneapolis and the majority of our work was done in the expansion of the south and north courtyards, with a great deal of ingenuity put into producing the architectural precast panels to coexist with the historical aspects of the building. Each of the panels has two windows with architectural precast frames that were made from a 3D printed mold and an intricate cornice, all surrounded by cast-in brick.
3D printing allowed us to not only match the existing aesthetic of the deeply historical buildings in the surrounding area, it helped bring a traditional landmark back to life.
Advantages of 3-D printing in the construction industry
Complex designs - 3D Printing allows complicated, complex models to be developed and used in our manufacturing process; whereas wood and plastic would have been used in the past and limited the possibilities of designs. 3D printing can build curvilinear structures (rather than rectilinear forms).
Durability - the amount of scrap from wood and plastic would be significantly reduced as a typical mold can be used over and over whereas wood and plastic have to be replaced and repaired every few uses.
Improved Project Planning - an important part of every project plan is the design. With 3D printing, companies will be able to quickly create models to have a visual representation of the project as well as help pinpoint problem areas and avoid delays.
Economical – as the technology continues to improve, 3D printing costs will continue to decrease allowing for wide spread use of this technology. As labor is a limited resource, 3D printing can eliminate some of the labor required on creating elaborate forming buildups.
The two pictures below are the 3D molds (black window sills) in the form and the finished product.