Wednesday, September 23, 2015

3D Printed Home Close to Reality...Really?

A 3D printer large enough to print houses has been created by an Italian engineering company in an effort to address the global housing crisis.

World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP) designed the 40 foot-tall, 20 foot-wide metal printer to build structures layer by layer using dirt or clay funneled through a central nozzle.

The printer, named the Big Delta, could create homes quickly and energy-efficiently in disaster or war zones to help those who have become displaced. It is also capable of printing beams around three meters in length.

WASP claims that 3D printing using natural, sustainable materials is significantly less harmful to the environment than using cement, which generates carbon dioxide.

The global market for 3D printing is expected to grow to $17.2 billion by 2020

I wonder how long it would take to get a permit for this house in the good old USA. Between the code regulations, the fire marshals, the local code inspectors and the engineers all wanting a piece of the action, this home will never see the light of day here.

Can you imagine a modular home built with dirt and clay. Maybe this could be called Brown Homes.

1 comment:

Dennis Michaud said...

Thank you for this post, ModCoach. I've been following and analyzing 3D printed buildings since Behrokh Khoshnevis at USC introduced Contour Crafting ( about 10 years ago (maybe more). It's amazing how this notion (along with 3D printing in general) has really caught the public eye. That being said, like 3D printing, what isn't talked about is just as important.

As is clear from even just the images shown in your article, this kind of technology requires a very large superstructure. That being said, we in modular are used to such things (cranes), and using them may be a more realistic approach to this problem. Another group, this time out of Spain, has a different solution to the issue, though admittedly more futuristic: Basically, little drone-like robots crawl around the site extracting concrete (or whatever). Maybe not as crazy as it sounds?

Finally, I completely agree with you - regulatory acceptance will be an issue. However, I actually see modular as a great avenue into acceptance (assuming that shipping concrete could make sense), because you can lean on real engineering more than “tried and true” on-site debates. My guess is that the proof will be in the pudding - or more specifically the concrete mixture, and how close this mixture approaches accepted standards for the material. Additionally, performance testing may be necessary, because 3D printed materials are extracted in courses (layers) rather than in large pours. So, the special case of what happens at seams between pours is, with 3D printing, the general condition over the entire wall.

While I also agree with you that more natural materials such as dirt and clay will be even more difficult to get past US building departments, I think that's unfortunate, because this is so much better (ecologically and otherwise) that building more and more out of concrete (a huge carbon suck and CO2 generator). Not to get too "greeny" on you, but I hope that some of the advances in rammed earth architecture might open the door to a more sustainable way of 3d printing buildings (like the example in your article). And, of course, people have been building out of clay and dirt far longer than concrete, studs, or steel.

In any case, thanks again for this article, and for bringing practical reality to an important but sometimes pie-in-the-sky discussion. I think we'll be seeing more and more about 3D Printed buildings (there's already so much!), and articles like yours will help ground it and therefore move it forward.