The Blurry Lines Between Manufacturing and Construction
Written By Carol Dunn

Coping with skilled labor shortages, high demand and pressure to produce more with less money, construction companies are looking for ways to produce buildings using new industry techniques. As touched upon in the Autodesk Redshift article, “6 Disruptive Examples Show How Manufacturing and Construction are Converging,” there are creative forces at work that promise the construction industry will thrive and grow. Following are a few of them:

A northern California company, ConXtech, is using Revit to design and prefabricate standardized interlocking connectors that eliminate the need for onsite welding of steel beams and columns. The chassis-based modular building system promises two- to five-times faster field assembly, safer field work, simplified process, and reduced waste. The system is also prequalified and codified for seismic design by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

Prefabricated homes are finding a niche in northern California as residents are determined to rebuild after the state’s catastrophic wildfires. Connect Homes is powering through California’s labor shortage and building code challenges with customized prefab homes. The allure of the company’s business model is summed up by its slogan, “Built in a factory. Delivered in a day.” Because site preparation can proceed while the home is being built in the factory, the entire process takes just a few months, including install finish work.

In 2017, using all-concrete “ink,” a 3D-printed residence was erected outside Moscow at a cost of $25 per square foot. But ever since the first building wall was 3D-printed by Chinese company WinSun in 2008, wall stability issues have been challenging the future of the process.

Photo by TU Endhoven, Netherlands.

This is due partly to the length of time needed for one layer of concrete to set up before another layer is “printed” on top of it. Fortunately, new mathematical equations recently developed by Professor Akke Suiker in the Netherlands that factor in materials, dimensions and drying times are promising to engineer better results. Another solution that’s been employed by WinSun is to use a printing medium that is a mixture of recycled construction waste, glass fiber, steel, cement, and exclusive additives.

Pioneering in digital manufacturing with industrial 3D printers that use metal and carbon fiber, Markforged is the tenth fastest growing technology company in North America. Complex parts can be manufactured, rather than machined, using metal materials that include stainless steel and superalloys, as well as chopped carbon fiber, nylon and reinforced continuous fiber. Adding this technology to robotics and reality capture promises to transform the AEC industry’s time-to-market and economic outlook.

Ever since Trex composite decking transformed deck construction in 1996, standard materials are being replaced by composites on a larger scale. Firms like Advantic are employing aerospace technology for alternative, non-corroding materials like fiber-reinforced polymer and polymer concrete. Combined with traditional materials of wood, concrete, steel, and masonry, final products can be lighter in weight, more fire and UV resistant and have over-capacity strength.

Growth comes from change. Around the world, companies are realizing that they need to adopt innovative and technologically advanced construction and manufacturing techniques and materials to keep up with that change.

If your company is interested in transforming your processes using manufacturing techniques, contact eVolve MEP today for a quick discovery call. The eVolve MEP experts will help you keep up with the changes taking place in the construction industry.

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