If you mention a 3D printer, people will usually think of those old devices, used to build toy action figures in the 90ties using some weird form of plastic. Normally, noone would expect them to build houses and if yout tell them they can, some will be weirded out by the idea of a plastic house. Obviosly, the houses aren’t made out of plastic nor any other unstable material. If you came here to find out how safe 3D printed houses are, check out this post I made on exactly this question. The question I am going to discuss here is:
What material are 3D printed houses made of?
3D printed houses can be made out of a vast variety of materials, such as concrete mixtures, steel, soil, sand and many additives for different purposes. Overall, it depends on the 3D printer, your environmental ambitions with the house, the location, required stability and even personal preferences in design and looks of the house.
Keep reading if you are interested in the materials used and want to learn more about 3D printed construction
Let’s just imagine you were someone, who likes to personalize and customize things so they fit your style. Then… you buy a 3D printed house, which is probably the best thing you could do if you are in to customizing your house. You can choose a lot of things, ranging from shape, to height, certain elements in your room and much more. Nevertheless, there are limits when it comes to the material. You can not 3D print about anything, there are certain materials that simply can not be printed.
Usually, in order for a material to be 3D printed it has to:
– either melt at low temperature
– or form some sort of paste
That is the only way for it to come out of the nozzle conveniently. There might be other ways in the future, even organic materials like wood are being tested as to how you might be able to print some form of replacement. Since right now we are talking about construction 3D printing, there are other things one has to watch out for:
– great stability
– resistant to the cold
– resistant to humidity
– isolating properly
Considering all of those cases, it cuts the list of materials a 3D printed house can be made from down quite a bit. Usually, companies create their own mixtures to 3D print houses according to their expertise, printing technology as well as their specific location.
Choosing the right material
Now, this is something you should do in close collaboration with your construction company… They probably know more about the technicalities as well as the materials. Generally speaking, you need to keep in mind a couple of thigs.
Is it often raining? Do you need to be protected against earthquakes? Are there any other risks which could weaken a building? Is it very cold in your area?
If so, bring this up while talking to your construction company and they will probably recommend you some form of concrete mixture or even steel, in order to ideally support this building.
2. Use of the building
Those are different questions which might affect your choice in materials.
While you should mainly think about practical advantages of the different materials, there is also some room for personal taste and interests. Just keep in mind that if you want to design it according to your wishes, there are plenty of ways to do so via interior decoration, without changing the core materials of the 3D printed house.
Is the environment a big factor in your housing decisions? Do you like reycling old houses?
If the answer to all of the above is yes, you are probably at the right place already. 3D printing houses leaves a large number of opportunities for sustainable housing. Some companies have embraces the sustainability of their material, such as Winsun, which uses recycled materials from wrecked houses, WASP, using soil and other natural ingredients or COBOD, a danish startup which has partnered with FORCE technology in order to create a recycled cement mixture.
Here is Winsun building a house using their recycled concrete mixture:
Closer look at some ingredients
Some of the materials are pretty self explanatory and don’t require much more than a mention, but there are also some very interesting materials which I would like to explore further, so Ive compiled a short list.
Most of you probably know that rice is the primary source of nutriotion in many countries. Some might even know, that not all of rice is edible. There is a byproduct called rice husks, which is usually thrown away. What few know, is that this byproduct can be used to 3D printed houses. As a material it can be helped to isolate houses and provide support to existing structures, in addition to being a very sustainable use for the rice husk, which is usually considered waste. A major company, leading in the construction process using rice, is the italian startup WASP, which you can see building in action here:
Where I am from, when something is very strong, we say it is hard as steel. Steel is simply the epitome of strength and durability, a reputation which is well-deserved since it is actually said to be a thousand times as strong as iron. Those of you who payed attention in the beginning of this article are probably going to be rather surprised right now, since I mentioned that the ideal material used in 3D printing possesses either a low melting point, or consists of some form of paste. Steel being an obvious exception, is what makes this material especially interesting.
Steel has some very unique advantages and disadvantages. Until now, it hasn’t been used in housing, allthough there is a bridge in Amsterdam printed from steel. A big disadvantage here has been the construction time of over 9 months. The project is rather old so probably modern technology could cut off a couple of months, but I am very skeptical about it competing with the construction time of 3D printed cement. Talking about 3D printed cement, there is one big advantage: It can build without a hard surface beneath. Let me explain, concrete would drizzle over time as it is supposed to dry up, whereas steel stays strong, Which is also one reason, why this project took so long.
All in all you need to be aware of the requirements some materials should fulfill in order to fulfill all of your needs. You can then talk to your construction company about whether their materials are going to fit your needs. Many people worry that those companies are going to try and sell you their houses no matter what, but actually there is such a large demand and such little supply that you can trust most good companies to give you truthful advice. As soon as you find a good company, everything else will fall into place and hopefully your 3D printed house will be stable, sustainable as well as inexpensive.