3D Printed Homes: Future of Construction?
Ever since the world’s first family moved into a 3D printed home in France back in June 2018, as reported by the BBC, it has opened up new possibilities for more affordable and quicker housebuilding.
3D printing has become one of the hottest emerging technologies of our time. Some have even dubbed the introduction of 3D printing technologies as the birth of the third industrial revolution.
What is 3D Printing?
3D printing was originally invented by an American engineer, Chuck Hall, in 1986. The technology uses a laser to join molecules together to form polymers, which are lots of similar molecules that are bonded together. These polymers help to create solid shapes.
To create an object, users upload a design to the printer. The 3D printer then “prints” the object in a layer by layer manner, creating the desired 3D object in the process.
With 3D printing, shapes can be rapidly made without moulds, moving away from traditional practices such as milling, where shapes are cut and the excess is thrown away.
How are 3D Printed Houses Built?
The family home that was constructed in France was designed in a studio by a team of scientists and architects. They then uploaded the design to a 3D printer and then brought the printer to the site of the home.
The 3D printer then printed the walls, with each wall consisting of two layers of an insulator polymer known as, polyurethane. The cavity between the walls were then filled with cement. This helps to create fully-durable, thick and insulated walls.
The roof, doors and windows were then fitted in by construction workers on site.
How Will 3D Printing Disrupt the Construction Sector?
If 3D printing technologies were to penetrate the construction sector, then it will drastically change the landscape of the industry as we know it.
Cheap and Affordable Housing
The 3D printed home in France cost £176,000 to build, this includes the cost of hiring the contractors who installed the roof, windows and doors, making it 20% cheaper than traditional methods.
House prices in the UK have skyrocketed over the past 20 years, with the average house price in London estimated at £472,000.
While we have seen a sharp rise in the number of flats being constructed in metropolitans cities in the UK, there has been an outcry for social housing in much-deprived areas in the UK. And 3D printing looks like it can solve this problem.
Furthermore, 3D printing could prove to be really important in the developing world. One 3D printing firm in China has successfully built a house for less than $5000 (£3,842).
At the moment, 3D printing technologies are very expensive. But as the demand for 3D printed housing rises, this should reduce the cost of 3D printers due to supply and demand.
The average house takes around 6 to 7 months to be completed via traditional construction methods. The 3D house in France took 54 hours to print, with a further four months for contractors to add in the windows, doors and the roof.
But the team who built the 3D printed house believes the same house can be built again in only 33 hours. That’s astounding.
Further developments in China saw a two-floored 400 m2 house built in a month. With investment in 3D technologies to increase in the near future, we will no doubt see these houses get built much quicker.
As world governing bodies are urging us to go green, the construction sector has been under increasing pressures to reduce their carbon footprint. Thanks to 3D printing technologies, the construction sector can build homes using more sustainable materials, while reducing waste.
According to BuildSoft, DUS, an architectural firm based in Amsterdam managed to print a canal house using a bioplastic made from 80% vegetable oil.
Experiment with New Designs
With 3D printing, architects can break free from traditional practices. 3D printing will give them the opportunity to experiment with various curved structures and different shapes. This will give homeowners the opportunity to have a house that is truly individualistic.
The End of The Traditional Construction Worker?
As with anything new that could potentially change an entire industry, there will be some concerns on how this could transform the workforce. Will 3D printing technologies reduce the demand for construction workers? This is a possibility, but it is definitely very early to tell.
3D printing technologies shouldn’t be seen as a threat, instead they should be seen as an exciting innovation that can potentially change the socio-economic landscape.
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