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WATCH: Researchers at UJ build RDP house in just one day using 3D concrete printing

Published May 31, 2022

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Johannesburg - The social housing backlog in South Africa is one of the biggest challenges faced by the government.

Not enough houses are being built, and existing projects are not being completed fast enough, while budget constraints are a huge factor hindering the progress of social housing developments.

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It is a problem that needs innovative and cost-effective solutions to deliver sustainable human settlements.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), in partnership with The University of Johannesburg’s (UJ) School of Civil Engineering & the Built Environment, is currently researching this very topic.

According to the UJ website, “The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) has embarked on a programme for the piloting and demonstration of 3D printing additive technologies for sustainable human settlements in South Africa. The DSI has identified 3D printing as a transformative technology that has the potential to revolutionise housing delivery in the country.”

Vice-chancellor at the University of Johannesburg, Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, tweeted: “This 3D Printer at the University of Johannesburg is fast. A full complete house in one day. If we invest in this technology, we can provide our people with decent housing fast and end informality.”

One of the advantages of 3D printing is the time factor. It has been found that it is quicker to erect a house using this technology than it is using the conventional brick and mortar construction method.

The findings reveal that, depending on the 3D printing system used and the thickness of the wall, it can take a minimum of five hours to print the whole house.

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The study also looks at the perceived disadvantages of using of 3D printing technology to erect houses.

It states: “However, two perceived disadvantages of 3D printing were identified: it reduces local labour employment (in number and time) and reduces contribution to the local economy (local material purchasing and local labour employment).”

After considering factors like time and cost, the study finds that “This study, therefore, finds the 3D printing additive technologies as an alternative method to deliver a facility quicker, to a better quality of finish, and at a lower construction cost.”

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While 3D printing of houses is still in its infancy stage in South Africa, it is certainly exciting to think of the possibilities the adoption of this technology may offer in the future and how it could go a long way in fast-tracking service delivery.

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