3-D Printing Technology


by Steve Streetman

an you build a house in a day? A house that is sturdy, energy

within the walls, floors, or ceilings for plumbing and electrical. Cabine - try and finishes must be added later. However, the basic home itself can be printed typically within 24 hours. A final home can be done within a month and at a fraction of the cost of standard building techniques. The greatly reduced time and cost to build a home are the most touted advantages of 3-D printed homes. Some companies are advertising that they can build a home for $10,000 and are trying to get that price down to $4,000. And have you built a home recently? How long did it take (how many months?) Can you imagine building a completed home in one month? It is possible. Printed homes are more stable and can be better insulated than typical homes. Using materials like extruded hempcrete or synthet - ic stone may also provide better sound insulation within the home. And there is much less construction waste when a house is 3-D printed. Overall, 3-D printed houses are more efficient in time, require less labor, are more efficient for energy, and waste less material. Beyond those advantages, how - ever, 3-D printing brings a lot more flexibility to home design. As long as the design is structurally sound, anything can be printed. Curved walls or stairs— easy. Unusual shapes—no


efficient, inexpensive, and just flat- out cool? In 2021, the answer is yes. 3-D printing technology has come of age and in numerous pilot projects across the world, houses are being printed, finished, and occupied. Printing houses is done with industrial-size 3-D printers that use gantry systems or robotic arms to extrude the printing materials. Building materials include plastic, concrete, synthetic stone, and hemp - crete (a mixture of concrete and hemp that increases the strength of the concrete). Different tech - nologies can print different sizes of homes, but printers exist that can print two- story buildings (including the foundations, floors, walls, roofs, overhangs, stairs, etc.) Some of the technologies print in a factory and transport to the homesite just as manufactured homes are today. But most of the house printers build on site. Typical printers can print 600- 800 square feet but can be moved so that they can print adjacent seg - ments and build any size home. Not all components of a home can be printed. Some 3-D printer technologies can only print walls and floors. But later models can print foundations, floors, walls, stairs, and roofs. Windows and doors must still be added. Channels are printed

problem. You could even channel your inner Frank Lloyd Wright and print fixed furnishings like beds, seating, cabinets, or bookcases. The projects I’ve seen so far don’t go that far, but imagine the additional savings on furnishing a house if you could print basic and necessary items. 3-D printing could aid in the coun - try’s affordable housing crisis. The U.S. (and really the world) are in des - perate need of safe, affordable hous- ing. If you can build an 800-square- foot house, possibly including basic furnishings like beds and shelves, for $4,000, it would be possible to provide housing for millions more people than we can with alternate technologies. This technology may be a better fit for areas where land is relatively inexpensive. When land is the major cost of housing, as in many cities, not being able to build tall structures would prevent 3-D printing from being a viable afford -

54 | think realty magazine :: february 2021

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