Printable houses are coming

April 11, 2012

Italian inventor Enrico Dini has developed a huge 3D printer called D-Shape that can print entire buildings out of sand, The printer sprays a thin layer of sand followed by a layer of magnesium-based binder from hundreds of nozzles on its underside. The glue turns the sand to solid stone, which is built up layer-by-layer from the bottom up to form anything from a sculpture to a sandstone building. (Credit: Monolite UK Ltd.)

The first “printed homes” will be coming soon, says World Future Society blogger Thomas Frey.

One construction technology that has great potential for low-cost, customized buildings is “contour crafting — a form of 3D printing that uses robotic arms and nozzles to squeeze out layers of concrete or other materials, moving back and forth over a set path to fabricate a large component.

Structures would be quicker to make, reducing energy and emissions. Using a quick-setting, concrete-like material, contour crafting forms the house’s walls layer by layer until topped off by floors and ceilings that are set into place by the crane.

Printed houses can take advantage of nonlinear but sturdy forms made from concrete (credit: Loughborough University)

Other far-reaching opportunities include constructing rapid shelters after natural disasters, operational structures on the moon out of moon dust, and cheap houses for people in impoverished countries.

A natural extension of printing new buildings will be devices that recycle the old ones. Ideally, the old material will be ground up and reformulated into new composites that can be re-printed into whatever is needed.

By replacing our traditional techniques for pouring concrete, 3D printers could be used to print driveways, sidewalks, benches, fences, foundations, and much more.

Small bots will be used to create seamless coatings on the tops of houses. The small army of people needed to reroof a house today will be replaced with a single person who’s job is to place the bot at its initial starting point and make sure there is a consistent supply of material to coat the entire roof.

Walls will no longer need to be flat surfaces. Every wall can be designed with textures, protrusions, and artistic designs to put an end to the dreadful uniformity in our homes today.