Is India ready for digital construction?

February 2019
The faculty and alumni of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have developed India's first 3D printing construction technology. Start-up firm Tvasta Manufacturing Solutions and the Civil Engineering Department of IIT Madras have established a unique 3D printing laboratory to formulate technological solutions for construction and take this technology to the mass market. Manu Santhanam, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, shares more...

3D printing construction has the potential of being among the mainstream construction technologies in India in a decade’s time. IIT Madras expects Indians to positively accept 3D printed structures, as these can have identical, if not better, quality compared to conventionally built buildings. The technology will start seeing viable use in three to four years, where large-scale construction can be made possible using 3D printing. 

The Indian construction industry already recognises 3D printing as an important technology for the future. Among other countries, the Chinese construction industry has been a frontrunner in large-scale construction using 3D printing. Groups in the Netherlands and the US have also successfully constructed full-scale small structures. Indian industry, too, with the right support from the Government, can easily catch up with the rest of the world in a timeframe of one to two years.

Cost and availability
The technology needs the availability of concrete 3D printers, which are not easily available in India. The only manufacturer in the country so far is Tvasta, the research partner of IIT Madras. The other option is to import 3D printers, which is an expensive proposition.

At present, the construction cost of 3D printing would be higher than conventional construction, particularly as IIT Madras is in the R&D process and the materials and printers are produced only in batch quantities. However, in the next few years, once the benefits of economics of scale are used, IIT Madras is looking at making this process competitive with conventional construction.