When I was growing up, one of the fun things to do with my friends is imagine the magnificent homes that we would all someday own. We all dreamed of building our dream house with a big lawn, big pool and big garage for all the cars we’d own. Nobody told us back then how much time and money it takes to build a house, a lesson I learned later in life when I did have the opportunity live the dream. Home construction is not for the faint of heart or the light of wallet, let me tell you!
That may be changing, however, and it’s because of something we never could imagine happening: somebody has created a 3D printer that can now literally build a house in less than a day. We’ve talked a lot about 3D printers over the last few months, because the technology is maturing so fast in so many industries, including home hobbyist who can buy a small 3D printer for under $300 nowadays. 3D printers have started to come into their own in manufacturing, health care and even food processing, but I was still surprised to hear about a company in China that built a huge 3D printer than can make a house in less than a day, and for less than $5,0000!
The company is called Winsun and they’ve designed this huge 3D printer that looks like an erector set of scaffolding that supports a large nozzle that exudes a mixture of cement and glass to create the inner and outer walls of the building and then the finishes, like plumbing, electrical and windows, are added quickly by skilled laborers to create a finished product is hours instead of weeks or months. The company recently demonstrated that they could manufacturer 10 homes in a day using this system at around $4,800.
Now, at around 900 square feet, these aren’t huge homes, but they are equivalent to the typical one or two bedroom apartment and they are perfect for developing countries, like China, with millions of people who need housing every year. There is a vast need for cheap housing that can be quickly assembled and the 3D printer is a lot more reliable and produces a better product than fly-by-night construction crews that use substandard construction materials and shoddy workmanship. Even countries like China, who haven’t had the best construction standards in the past, are starting to realize the importance of building reliable, affordable housing for a population that is growing more demanding.
So, the question is, is the 3D house printing phenomenon simply a third-world country thing or is there an application of this technology here in the US? Well, a guy named Andrey Rudenko thinks so and he demonstrated how you can use a 3D printer to build a structure by manufacturing the pieces individually and them assembling them together over two months. He actually built a small castle, with turrets and all, in his back yard and is working on building a bigger 3D printer so can put together a two story house later this year. People in the construction industry are excited about the possibilities of using a 3D printer to help in the building process not just because it saves time and money, but also because a 3D printer allows how to use exotic materials in construction and to design complicated, finely detailed structures that a printer would have no problem creating. I expect that the use of 3D printers in home construction will be as common in five years as it is today in the manufacture of plastic parts. Once you unleash the technology, the folks with the imagination take off with it!