UJ and the DSI launch SA’s first 3D printed building

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI), in partnership with the University of Johannesburg (UJ), has successfully launched SA’s first ever ‘printed’ building using a 3D concrete printer.

Founding chairperson of the Mampeule Foundation and CEO of the SA Housing and Infrastructure Fund (SAHIF), Rali Mampeule, says the foundation is proud to have played a part in this ground breaking project alongside the DSI, the main project sponsor, and UJ.

In 2022, the foundation donated R5 million towards UJ’s Sustainable Materials and Construction Technologies Research Centre in School of Engineering and the Built Environment (SMaCT) which managed the project. SMaCT was established in 2021 and is charged with leading research at the nexus of sustainable alternative modern and cost-efficient building technologies. The funds donated to SMaCT have been utilised in research related activities and to provide bursaries for students conducting research at SMaCT.

Using computer-controlled robots to print 3D structures for houses and other infrastructure, 3D concrete printing is a construction method by which the printer’s path is pre-programmed and prints layer by layer. The concrete supplied into the printer is dispensed through the nozzle in the required path.

Other industry stakeholders, who were key partners to the project’s success, were AfriSam, the cement supplier that provide all the cement products; and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Human Settlements which committed to the provision of serviced sites for the demonstration and building of 10 houses in eThekwini Municipality.

Through the SAHIF, which had developed thousands of affordable housing opportunities over the past 10 years, Mampeule says he has experienced first-hand the high cost of construction and construction materials which make it nearly impossible for the low and middle-income individuals to afford their own housing and accommodation needs. It is imperative to invest in research and development that yields viable, cheaper, alternative materials and construction methods.

The 3D houses themselves will ideally be more resilient, more energy-efficient and less expensive. To make housing more affordable in South Africa we need the introduction of modern alternative building technologies to deliver on the target of more housing opportunities – at least 2 million more additional units. This shortage of housing has a range of complex causes, including the high cost of construction which rose even further due to the Covid-19 pandemic and supply constraints.”

This donation is consistent with the Mampeule Foundation’s ethos of uplifting and equipping the youth with an aptitude that will auger well for South Africa’s stated ambition of becoming a leader in the application of 4IR technologies to address its socio-economic issues, he says.

The developing world, including South Africa, continues to face many substantial developmental challenges which can be more expeditiously addressed if we embrace 4IR technology. In fact, South Africa must not only embrace 4IR but develop local expertise that it can use it to accelerate our fight against unemployment, poverty, and inequality.”