'Print me a post office!'
By Anand Parthasarathy
June 15 2023: India’s first post office building, constructed using 3-D printing technology, is fast nearing completion on Bengaluru’s Cambridge Road. When completed, it will house the Halasuru Bazaar Post Office – in a 1100 square foot facility.
Being undertaken by L&T, the total construction cost is likely to be around Rs 23 lakhs – about 30-40% cheaper than a structure built in the conventional way.
The building is being printed in situ, using an automated 3-D concrete printer. This deposits concrete layer by layer according to the 3-D model drawing and calls for a fine balance between the quick hardening and the flowability of the concrete mix.
If the pilot 3-D printed Post office is a success, the postal department plans on extending this to 400 more locations which are hitherto unserved by postal services.
L&T has been among earliest major construction companies in India to embrace 3-D printing technology, aiming to complete projects, faster, at lower cost. Using a large format concrete 3-D printer sourced from Denmark-based 3-D construction equipment maker Cobod, they “printed” a small one-storied structure using locally sourced 3-D printable concrete mix in November 2019 as a learning exercise.
The company went on to construct a 2-storeyed 65 sq meter ( 650 sq feet) building at its Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu facility. The structure was ‘printed’ in 106 hours
Say the engineers at Cobod: “It is really impressive how L&T developed the 3D printable concrete and applied integral horizontal and vertical reinforcement in the building.”
First 3-D printed temple
In Siddipet, in Telangana state, another interesting building project has been launched: India’s first 3-D-printed temple for the Charvitha Meadows gated community. The 3800 sq. ft temple will feature three garbhas or sanctums, dedicated to Lord Ganesha, Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati.
The work is being undertaken by Apsuja Infratech with Simpliforge Creations. In March this year, Simpliforge printed and built, on the same site, a prototype bridge within just 2 hours -- with designs developed by the International Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) , Hyderabad.
The company made headlines in construction circles, 2022, when it launched what was claimed to be India’s largest robotic 3-D printer, capable of crafting structures up to 7 metres in size.
Initiative by IIT-Madras alumni
Another early mover in 3-D printed construction is Tvasta, a startup co-founded by alumni of IIT Madras who graduated in 2016, after having completed a final year project in 3-D printing. In 2018 they put up arguably India’s first 3-D structure in the IIT Campus and two years later, completed a 1 BHK house nearby within 21 days.
Watch a YouTube video showing the full Tvasta process of building the 3-D house.
Other IITs are also into this technology: In a collaboration with a Belgium -based 3-D Printer startup Deltasys E-Forming, IIT Guwahati is developing a building printer that uses construction waste as its raw material.
The government -driven Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) has target to build of 3 crore houses by 2024: To reach an ambitious target like this, 3-D printed structures might be the only viable option
In Gandhinagar, Gujarat, last year engineers of the Army’s Military Engineering Service 3-D printed houses for jawans at the South Western Air Command
These Indian initiatives in harnessing 3-D printing for civil construction are the crest of a global wave which sees in this technology the potential to put up homes and other facilities, faster and cheaper than with traditional practice, even while using recycled and eco-friendly materials.
A Building Industry Association show earlier this month in the US, highlighted the fact that the modular techniques possible with 3-D printing will obviate the need for on-site carpenters, welders and other tradespersons on the building site.
Their conclusion: 3-D printing is now a disruptive technology in the building industry that has legs and is gaining traction –a small market that is set to explode.
For the companies and clients in India who are pioneering 3-D printed construction, it is an idea whose time has come.
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This article has appeared in Swarajya