Trend Report 94: The Emerging Trend of 3D Printed Dwellings

Hi I’m Paul Roberts welcome to my PODCAST Channel “THE FUTURE” where I cover BREAKING TRENDS FROM AROUND THE WORLD.

In our ever accelerating times, keeping ahead of the latest breaking news and trends from the world’s of fashion, music, film, art, tech, activism, is a time consuming daily challenge ? Sure the information is all out there, but it is a time consuming ordeal to scan all the necessary sources. As Darwin said survival depends on how quickly you can adapt.

The future belongs to those who prepare today.

In today’s PODCAST FIB’s Trend Report #94 I want to look at the emerging Trend of 3D Printed Dwellings.

3D printing is disrupting every industry imaginable, and one of the most impacted industries is construction. Using 3D printing technology, which offers incredible versatility and freedom, allows 3D manufacturers to create truly exceptional homes.

Build Your Own House

Through FDM construction printers companies are able to construct full homes. Photo Credit: Sunconomy

As 3D printing continues to grip the world, the way we do many things is being revolutionised. Recently, 3D printing technology has begun to change the world of construction, opening up infinite possibilities for the future.

A majority of the companies at the forefront of this industry are innovative startups, which are based all over the world. Countries are embracing and promoting this technology. In fact, Dubai declared that by 2030 a quarter of every new building constructed must use 3D printing technology.

Non-profits, concrete companies, and architects alike are innovating new solutions to global problems while pushing the limits of technology. Even NASA has embraced 3D printing for the creation of it’s robot built dwellings on it’s Marsha Mars project. And in Australia after the recent bushfires agencies are looking into the practicality of destroyed home rebuilds using this technology, with new improved fire resistant dwellings.

Research and architecture studio AI Space Factory has designed a 3D-printed house for the surface of Mars – and it looks like a beehive. Photo Credit: Plompmozes

3D printing is being used, for example, to produce homes quickly and cheaply, with the goal of eliminating homelessness. It’s creating the possibilities for designers to create homes outside of the standard rectangular shape, and it’s ultimately changing the way we view homes forever.


3D-Printed Homes Quietly Gain Traction

3D printing is one of the most talked about emerging technologies of our time. Some have even dubbed it the beginning of the third industrial revolution. It is said to be able to create faster, stronger and cheaper houses, but does it live up to the hype?

So in this Podcast I want to explore the history and current state of 3D printing, and discuss what obstacles are facing the technology.

What is 3D Printing?

Originally invented and patented in 1986 by American Engineer, Chuck Hall, 3D printing is a technology that uses laser light to link molecules (a group of atoms) into polymers (lots of similar molecules bonded together), turning them into solid shapes.

3D printing constructs objects layer by layer. The first step is just like how an office printer places ink on top a piece of paper in your desired shape. But then 3D printers keep going, adding more and more layers on top, creating a solid 3D object.

What this means is that shapes can be made rapidly without moulds. And there’s no waste. This is a huge change from traditional practices, such as milling, where shapes are cut from materials and the excess is discarded.

What are the Benefits of 3D Printing?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

There are five main benefits of 3D printing technology when it comes to building houses:

  1. Lower cost – 3D buildings have the potential to dramatically reduce the cost of materials and labour. One house in Chinawas successfully built for less than $5,000. This may prove especially important in the developing world to assist in alleviating poverty. Further, as the technology becomes increasingly popular, the price of purchasing a 3D printing machine and its spare parts should decline.
  2. Speed – The speed at which a 3D-printed house can be built is astounding. A traditionally constructed house usually takes around 6-7 months to be completed. Chinese construction company HuaShang Tengdabuilt a two-story, 400-square-metre house in a month, with smaller, less intricate designs taking significantly less time. Considering that another Chinese company, WinSun Decorating Design Engineering, managed to build 10 full-sized houses in a day, building speed is only likely to increase further in the future.
  3. Strength and durability – Strength matters for all builds, but this is especially important in regions which regularly face extreme weather and natural disasters, leading to numerous (hopefully preventable) fatalities. And unfortunately, these areas are often inhabited by poorer nations. 3D printing has advanced to the point of designing concrete-based houses which can withstand hurricanes. Further, the two story, 400-square-meter house from HuaShang Tengda mentioned earlier is said to be able to hold its own against a 8.0 Richter scale earthquake.
  4. New shapes and design possibilities – The architect will no longer be constrained by traditional practices. The opportunity to use curvilinear structures (curved lines) rather than the usual rectilinear (straight lines), means that the design game has changed. Instead of being bound by rectangular forms because it offers the strongest structural integrity to the building, architects can really experiment with buildings, meaning that owners can have a house that is truly individual. Researchers are also looking into its use for constructions in space.
  5. More sustainable – Under the increased global pressure to ‘go green,’ the building industry has sought many avenues for more environmentally sustainable materials and practices.3D printers now operate with a lot of environmentally friendly materials, but there is still work to be done in this area. However, one great sustainability leap forward comes via architects from DUS in Amsterdam. They managed to print a canal house using bioplastics made from 80% vegetable oil.


What are the Obstacles of 3D Printing Houses?

Photo Credit: Plompmozes

There are four main issues with the technology as it currently stands:

  1. The printers are expensive – The printing machines can cost several million dollars each. Since the technology can deliver incredibly important housing cheaply, hopefully there will be enough competition in the industry to bring down the cost of the printers and builds to maximise accessibility.
  2. Some materials are toxic – A researcher at the University of California found unsafe levels of toxicityin some materials used for 3D printing. There is caution that printers need to operate in well-ventilated places. More research needs to be done in this area.
  3. The surface quality may be rough – Currently the end result of these houses isn’t quite as smooth as we expect from homes. However, researchers are looking into this further, and there is likely to be an improvement in the near future.
  4. Potential legal issues – Deciding who is responsible (e.g. the printer manufacturer or the building company) should there be a problem with a build may prove to be a tricky legal issue. There may also be intellectual property concerns over designs as they can be easily copied and reproduced. The law will have to adapt to this new technology and ensure proper regulation is in place globally.

Although it can already produce houses that are on the whole, faster, stronger and cheaper than traditional constructions, future research should see 3D printed houses become more accessible and effective options. Nonetheless, 3D printing is undoubtedly a technology that will only become more important in the future, especially as the industry strengthens its sustainable practices.

Building houses using 3D printing techniques might sound futuristic, but the actual practice is slowly gaining traction. Tech startup, for instance, recently opened a new assembly plant in Reno, Nevada where it plans to ship its first models to buyers in Nevada, California, and Arizona.

The structures feature 3D printing, smart home technologies, zero carbon emissions, and the capability of operating off the grid with their own power, water, and septic systems. The houses are not necessarily a bargain, as the grid-connected base model is priced at $200,000, though they can be customised for off-grid functionality. Besides the attractive sustainability attributes, the houses can be manufactured in 4 to 7 weeks, according to the company, as compared to traditional onsite home construction using standard materials, which can take months to complete.

Though the practice is nascent, there are other companies pushing the 3D-printed housing market forward. In 2018, ICON claims to have built the first permitted 3D-printed house in the US in Austin, Texas. Since then, the company has launched its Vulcan II printer, which can produce houses measuring up to 2,000 square feet in size.

Apis Cor is another company in the 3D printing space and it plans to build a demonstration house in the US in 2020. In the Netherlands, a consortium of companies has set up a factory with 3D printing machines that use concrete and plans to supply materials for the five homes to be built for Project Milestone in the city of Eindhoven.


The Upsides and Downsides of 3D Printed Houses

Using 3D printing techniques for building houses has some upsides. Lower costs can be achieved compared to traditional methods because of a reduction in raw materials and reduced expenditures for labor. Building with 3D printing is also less wasteful; a 3D project generates just 30% of the waste a traditional project produces, according to industry estimates. The use of 3D printing also reduces the time it takes to build, roughly 6 weeks versus 6 months needed for a typical new house. Lastly, 3D printing allows for more creative and affordable design shapes, which can be a welcome aspect for architects and homeowners seeking a different style.

Nonetheless, there are hurdles stalling the adoption of 3D printing of houses. One is the lack of regulations and building codes that define the standards. This hurdle can be overcome, but it takes time for regulators to become familiar with the techniques and then draft the proper rules. There is also a current limit on the types of materials that can be used. For now, the process is limited largely to plastics and concrete, and homes requiring wood or steel (e.g., roofing or other infrastructure) still need to use traditional products. Moreover, there is a lack of 3D specialists; few architects and engineers have designed or built houses using 3D printing processes. This is likely to change, but for now it is a challenge.

Even with the hurdles, 3D printing of houses quietly moves ahead. In another 10 years or so, the 3D process should be much more mature and accepted. Couple advancements with sustainability goals and the notion of less is more, and the market could be primed for a healthy growth spurt.


NASA backs designs for 3D-printed homes on Mars

Photo Credit: Plompmozes

Research and architecture studio AI Space Factory has designed a 3D-printed house for the surface of Mars – and it looks like a beehive.

Dubbed the Marsha Project, the vertical dwelling was dreamt up for NASA’s 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, and has been endorsed by the agency.

Each ‘hive’ can accommodate four astronauts and can be 3D-printed in situ using a static construction rover and materials gathered from the surface of the Red Planet, including basalt and renewable bioplastic. Marsha’s vertical design alleviates Mars’ atmospheric constraints by minimising movement of the construction rover across unfamiliar terrain, allowing it to print while static.

Explains the practice: ‘Where structures on earth are designed primarily for gravity and wind, special conditions on Mars point to a structure optimised to handle internal atmospheric pressure and structural stresses: a vertical container with a minimal footprint.’

The cylindrical dwellings comprise an outer shell, which is tethered to the surface of the planet (to guard against strong winds), and an internal shell which houses living spaces. These are set across four levels, with a wet lab on the lower level, kitchen and dry lab above, and the top two floors for recreation. Bedrooms are conceived as semi-enclosed sleeping pods that offer privacy.

A large water-filled skylight caps the dwelling and filters light down through the height of the building.

AI Space Factory will now construct a 1:3 prototype of the Marsha dwelling as the next stage of the project. Watch this space…

As 3D printed dwellings now start to proliferate both near and far, it seems only a short time away when then the perfected technology will be the norm rather than some science fiction.

What do you think about 3D printed homes ?


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