3D Printed Whole House in 24 Hours
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process, an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
3D printing is the opposite of subtractive manufacturing which is cutting out / hollowing out a piece of metal or plastic with for instance a milling machine.
3D printing enables you to produce complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
3D Printing in Home Building
3D Printing has made significant leaps and bounds in the last few years. The first 3D commercially viable 3D printed car was debuted in November, 2015 at the Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas and is now available for purchase.
In the first quarter 2016 the Oak Ridge National Laboratories showcased the first viable, fully 3D printed home suitable for every-day living. Companies like Apis Cor are producing fascinating results and can print a house within 24 hours. Currently, it lends out its machinery to various other firms.
“Construction the way it’s done today is very wasteful,” says Behrokh Khoshnevis, the director of the manufacturing engineering graduate program USC explained in a presentation on Contour Crafting at TEDxOjai. “Our solution benefits from advanced technology…It is essentially a way of streamlining the process of construction by benefiting from the experience we have gained in the field of manufacturing.”
The 3D printer lays out concrete and interlocking steel bars as it builds a structure. Khoshnevis says that the printer can handle the plumbing, electrical networks, and flooring for multistory buildings.
Khoshnevis sees the technology as a way to quickly rebuild communities and towns damaged by natural disasters.
“My true hope is that this technology gets to be used worldwide to the fullest extent possible,” he said.
Similarly, countries like China are experimenting with contour crafting. A project by Shanghai based WinSun uses recyclable materials to print houses for $4,800 dollars per unit. In this case, all the parts are printed separately first and later on assembled.
Since bigger construction projects require a massive build area, companies have had to think outside the box. On-site Robotics, for example, have been working with the concept of increasing build volumes by mounting printers on cables and monitoring the process with drones. These concepts are rapidly evolving over time, but they have a long way to go.
3D printing will continue to improve and soon it will be possible for anyone to print just about anything. In the not too distant future, you could fully expect to see every house have a 3D printing room which will be used to print everyday objects like plates, cups, towels etc.
How far off are 3D printed houses in the U.S.?
3D printed housing structures are possible today. So 3D printed housing could be available within the next 10-15 years. The natural place for this to first start is the pre-fabricated home industry. They already have adopted the idea of building the pieces in one location ensuring quality and price controls and then assembling elsewhere. This is a perfect place to use 3D printing of housing materials.