Leading the Way with Prefabrication
3D printing in conjunction with prefabrication means architects face fewer design constraints than ever before. In the past, custom-designed panels were prohibitively expensive, limiting an architect’s design approach. A concept that existed in a designer’s mind or on paper was not always translatable to a real-world structure. With 3D prefabrication, façade panels are manufactured in a controlled environment where the panels are robotically milled to exact shapes and sizes. This differs from traditional construction methods, which consisted of craftspeople carving shapes on site, after cladding products had been installed on the building. An approach that was time-consuming, required highly skilled labor, and was often imprecise. Prefabrication allows for panel designs to be easily and quickly produced, enabling mass customization of façades for large-scale structures.
With prefabrication, walls are manufactured, fully assembled, loaded, and wrapped within a climate-controlled facility before being transported to the jobsite. This method delivers much higher precision and far less material waste. Additionally, architects can deliver greater energy efficiency through prefabricated systems by choosing panels that possess industry-leading insulation values.
The installation process involves a delivery truck, a crane to hoist the panels, and installers to fasten the panels onto the building’s framing elements. There is no on-site storage of materials or waste from excess materials. In fact, certain manufacturers have reduced the amount of waste by as much as 95 percent when constructing a building façade.
Construction projects that utilize traditional construction methods frequently go over budget and are not completed on time. Prefabrication helps to solve this by compressing timelines and adhering closely to the planned budget through the removal of variables that cause delays and rework. Timeline improvement is achieved by constructing panels earlier in the process while other site work is taking place. They then arrive on site precisely when they are ready to be installed. While this method requires investing additional time during the early project phases to ensure every detail is planned out and logistics are thought through and it results in significant time and cost savings overall.
Prefabricated panel systems are tested as a complete system for code compliance, durability, wind load, fire resistance, and more from the sheathing layer all the way to the finish. No longer is it necessary to rely on individual part performance without understanding how they interact and perform as a unit. Prefabrication ensures that the whole system will endure and meets safety and performance requirements.
Ultimately, prefabrication manufacturing methods result in project benefits for everyone. The community around the job site benefits from fewer disruptions and a shorter construction schedule. Contractors and installers benefit from having the job done on time and on budget by meeting deadlines, reducing waste and rework, and by creating a safer working environment for crews.