Until very recently, 3D printers were designed to create small (up to around 50cm) models and functioning products. Especially aimed at definition over size, most 3D printers are made for this purpose, but larger ones are just starting to become mainstream. Already seen in places like car racing, replacement parts can be made within a few minutes for little cost, though they're usually only temporary.
As most readers will know, alot of 3D printing uses plastics as the base of their product, with only the most expensive able to use materials like powdered metal and silicon. As the technology improves, the base material becomes easier and easier to obtain, to the point where mostly recycled materials can easily be used in most projects. This has lead people to think; why a small model, and not a house?
It's remarkably simple to print a house, using the same construction materials which are used in models currently, or with specially designed 'concrete sprayers' to print a house in hours. Several companies have already popped up over the world, and business for them is set to shoot off in coming months.
There are a few main advantages to printing a house over building one, though the initial teething problems of any new tech are definitely still present. The houses built are uniform, and are perfectly insulated through their designs; saving the resident money over time. This also factors in to the very low cost of these buildings, costing only around £10-12K for a two bedroom house. Quite often the money saved is spent on improvements, such as solar panelling on the roof. The aim of these houses is to be as self-sufficient as possible, and so far they are working out well.
The houses are also easy to set up, needing only a team of 3 or 4 and a few hours. The machine does it all, and last minute adjustments and painting are the only things the people are necessary for; machines can even wire the house for grid power.
As the houses are designed and modelled in 3D simulations, they are estimated to last over a lifetime, and feature none of the downfalls of traditional buildings. Double glazing and cavity wall insulation as standard, and commodities are built into the design of every house. The houses can be built in even the toughest of environments, and have been shown to withstand the forces of any known earthquake.
One downside to 3D printing houses is that the houses last forever; a double edged sword. Currently there is no technology or procedure in place to remove these houses, as the concrete plastic mix is difficult to recycle. This environmental impact could turn out to be huge, but there are already many teams in major universities dedicated to recycling thee houses. The technology will be there eventually, it just needs some refining.
3D printed houses will be great for the world, as more houses can be made for people without them; homeless people, those in non-developed countries, and even just as emergency accommodation after a natural disaster. Much more research is needed into the environmental impact of these buildings, but the future is bright for 3D printed housing.
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