When you think of modern home construction, you typically think about (wood) sticks and bricks. And it’s been that way for decades. But since its introduction in 1983, tech visionaries thought about using the 3D printing to build houses. What was once a futuristic dream of 3D printing home building is now a reality.
In his 2017 commentary, Sean Mashian lays out how 3D printing will change the landscape of home building and real estate (The impact of 3D printing on real estate; Cornell Real Estate Review; 2017. 15, p64-65.). He discussed how the technology was used and the potential for the housing industry. His assessment was that large scale commercial 3D printing technology was rudimentary and expensive. Instead, the industry mostly used the tech for smaller projects, such as scale models for new home developments. However, like any new technology, he expected large scale commercial 3D printers to become more commonplace as the tech emerges. He predicted the potential of 3D printing growth, just as internet tech and e-commerce grew in the early 2000’s.
In order to grow the technology of 3D printing home building , pioneers like Apis Cor (apis-cor.com) are needed. Apis Cor claimed to be the first company to develop and deploy a mobile construction 3D printer capable of printing a complete house on site. About five years ago, Apis Cor made headlines when they “printed” a house in 24 hours. Although. the one level 400sf home was rudimentary, it demonstrated the flexibility of the 3D printing technology. The home was 3D printed completely on site and in mid-winter.
The 3D tech is already being used in some manner in the housing industry. A 2013 article in Kitchen & Bath Design News (Design and the 3D Printing Revolution) reported on design companies that were using 3D printing to manufacture personalized home fixtures. And in 2019, the National Association of Homebuilders reported that 3D printing tech is already being used by a small number of builders to produce architectural details for homes.
A January 11th National Association of Home Builders release discusses how 3D printing can change the industry (How 3D-Printed Structures Could Disrupt Housing; nahb.org). Although the NAHB states the tech is still developing, there is a belief that it will address several concerns about housing:
First, it will make homes more affordable. Currently, 3D printed homes are relatively small, which reduces materials and time to build the home. Automation significantly reduces labor costs. Additionally, some 3D printed homes can be built without a foundation, which also reduces time, materials, and costs.
Second, home building will be more sustainable. The technology inherently has little waste. Each house is “printed” with the necessary material. Besides incorporating green technologies, the structure is printed in such a way that it improves energy efficiency.
Third, 3D printing home building designs are easily changed in an automated system. The design flexibility can make numerous shapes that can address fast paced changes to the housing market.
And last, building delays are almost eliminated. Whether the houses are printed on site, (such as Apis Cor’s technology) or built in a facility, the rapid building time reduces weather impact. Depending on the home size and printer capability, a home can be built in as little as 24 hours or up to several weeks. This type of productivity greatly reduces time and delay costs due to labor and materials.
By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2021
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