What if your dream home was ready in one day (Yes, one day!) and it only cost 5.000 USD? As unbelievable as this may seem, printing homes is possible today, according to international media. This would be a breakthrough with profound implications for housing affordability and customization. It would also be nice to see concrete replaced by a more sustainable material, which would truly reduce the carbon footprint of this type of construction.
Chinese company Win Sun New Materials showed that this was possible. The company successfully printed 10 houses in one single day. The reported cost for each house printed by the Chinese company Winsun was just 5,000 USD.
Rather than printing the homes in one go, Winsun’s 3D printer creates building blocks by layering up a cement/glass mix in structural patterns.
The diagonally reinforced print pattern leaves plenty of air gaps to act as insulation. These blocks are printed in a central factory and rapidly assembled on site.
You may want to see how this was done:
In Amsterdam, a team of architects has started construction of the 3D Print Canal House, using bio-based, renewable materials. The site is both construction site and public museum.
|Canal House Amsterdam|
The Canal House is a symbol of Amsterdam. When the canal belt was built 400 years ago, Amsterdam was a prime example of innovation.
“It is indeed a very interesting and revolutionizing approach to construction. I wonder however what would be the costs of operation: heating and cooling of these homes? The enormous advantage is the incredible customizability. Although an interesting use of robotics and waste materials, I believe it is important to look at all aspects of housing (energy required for operation, weight, seismic requirements, fireproofing, etc.) before decisions are made to move forward with this concept. Still - very flexible possibilities now that the machine is built and working. I will certainly look forward to seeing what they do with it next.“ says engineer Gheorge Bitca, head of OCTAGON's tendering department.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing a building?
One great advantage of 3D printing over traditional building techniques (such as prefabricated concrete) is the possibilities of using a high level of detail and ornament and variation. Rather than using standardized elements, 3D printed designs can each be modified and customized to fit the user's needs and taste. It will no longer be more expensive or more labour intensive to add details to, for example, your façade and it is easy to create unique objects.
3D printing is an additive manufacturing technique. That means the process goes straight from the raw material to the final product, thus eliminating waste. There are no transport costs, as designs can simply be transferred digitally and printed locally.
In terms of disadvantages, it is obviously a huge challenge to create a building that complies with all the current building regulations. There is the question of insulation, fireproofing, wind loads, foundations, as well as the possible materials to print with (using this printer). All theseaspects are currently being researched and investigated.
Printing one house in a run, still challenging
A gigantic 3D printer, able to print whole house in a single run, from its structure to its electrical and plumbing systems has not been created yet, so the houses are printed piece by piece for the time being.
For the last seven years, Loughborough’s University researchers have been developing 3D concrete printing technology for commercial purposes. They came up with a system that is made up of a gantry and robotic arm, which they are still perfecting. This device uses very exact computer control to extrude cement-based mortar into layers and create building components that can then be joined together into a larger structure.
The researchers are certain that this technology already allows for the building of complex structures that would prove a challenge for traditional construction. In fact, their 3D concrete printer could potentially print whole sections of a building with all the electrical and plumbing spaces already in place. This would cut down on the building time considerably, even when the project is a large, multi story structure.