The 3D printing technology was not only meant to print rockets or organ structures, but the high initial costs meant that it was only used for "high-end" jobs.
Things are progressively changing, however. The CDC group just 3D printed a school in Malawi, and it took just 18 hours. Students are already attending classes in the new building.
Instant schools: a dream to make reality
UNICEF estimates that some 36 classrooms are missing in Malawi alone. It would take 70 years to fill this gap using conventional construction methods. 14 Trees, a joint venture working to address infrastructure needs in Africa, says 3D printing technology can fill this gap in just 10 years.
14 Trees is a joint venture between the group CDC based in the UK and the Franco-Swiss multinational building materials company, Lafarge Holcim. Their partnership aims to build affordable housing, schools and social infrastructure in Malawi and the rest of Africa.
The 3D printing process used in Malawi (with the use of special robots COBOD) further reduces construction time and also requires fewer materials than other similar options. What's more: it also reduces the environmental footprint by 50%.
What's wrong? Anything.
To be honest, there is a stain. The process is not fully automated. But it is a quality! The team uses a large extruder to build the walls of the structure: skilled local workers manage the assembly process of doors, windows, roofs and more. In this mode, 3D printing can create more jobs for the people in Malawi, and help workers improve their skills.
The school premises, built at record speed, have now been relocated to a local Malawi community in the Yambe area of the Salima district. After the move in late June, the children started attending classes.
The first in Malawi. The first in the world.
"I am very impressed with the new building: its durability and design provide the space and facilities that the students did not have before," he says. Juliana Kuphanga Chikandila, representing the Director of Education, Youth and Sport in Malawi.
It is notably different from the schools being built in the area. It will attract more students, and students who have left will return to study.Juliana Kuphanga Chikandila
It is the first 3D printed school in the world. In the same hours (but it took less, 12) in addition to the school, the company also 3D printed a prototype of a house. It is located in the Lilongwe area, also in Malawi.
Next steps after Malawi
"Now that we have demonstrated the concept in Malawi, we look forward to extending this technology across the region," he says Miljan Gutovic, Holcim Group's regional manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The firm has similar projects in the pipeline in Kenya and Zimbabwe.