3D printing an entire house?
With 3D printing gaining more and more notoriety, more and more doubters emerge, who are not happy about the technology. As soon as they hear: 3D printed construction only works for walls, they immediately take this argument and use it to dismiss the entire industry. This is why today we are going to take a completely unbiased approach to the 3D printed house and ask the question:
Can you 3D print an entire house, talking about floors:
Generally speaking, this is less a question of ability, but more of efficiency. As Mudbots CEO James Lyman put it, asked about 3D printing floors: “Of course its feasible, but it is simply not efficient compared to traditional methods.” That being said, most parts of the house can be 3D printed, but for some it requires a lot of effort or even a different printer.
3D printing the roof
One major issue with 3D printing the roof of a building would be that most forms of 3D printed concrete take some time in order to dry up. In other words, without any support, the roof would not be stable in this drying face and simply drizzle on the floor. There are companies like Winsun, who build the entire house in their facilities and then deliver it. Using this method, the only thing required on site is the assembling of the parts, which does not require a drying process, obviously. If you use tis method, or simply 3D print the roof beforehand and afterwards simply put it on top of the building, there shouldn’t be any issues arising. Nevertheless, you always have to ask yourself if it is worth the effort. Your main objective while building a house should always be to do it in the most efficient, yet safe and best way possible. This is why most notorious and well-known 3D printed houses have had the roof installed afterwards, using traditional methods. There is one company, which I would like to talk about that has gone quite the opposite way.
RMS (Resilient modular systems) has specialized in 3D printing exactly what others have avoided: the roof. Well, it’s not like they take a 3D printer and put it on top of the house which then starts immediately printing the house.It is more of a company, which has specialized in 3D printing tiles from plastic waste, because of a couple of advantages they possess such as increased durability, isolation and less negative impact on the environment.
So, if you want a short answer for the question: Can you 3D print a roof?
Yes, but not directly in one process with the walls. Also it is not always recommended, since it can take more work and create more problems in the end than a traditionally constructed roof.
3D printing the floor
The floor makes up the basis of the entire house and is definitely fixed to the ground, meaning the 3D printed concrete wouldn’t drip out of shape. Nevertheless, the floor is usually not being 3D printed. As a consequence, this raises the question: Can the floor of a house be 3D printed? Exactly this question is what I asked James Lyman, CEO of MudBots, an expert on construction 3D printing, who has already been named the Elon Musk of 3D printing. His response was: “Of course we can. It is not a question of that, the question is whether it’s efficient.” Usually, simply laying the floor using a truck and a quick effort is simply quicker and less expensive.
Also, at the end of the day most people want wooden tiles or similar kinds of ground, simply because it has a better feel and optic to it. Regarding those ideas, we are still pretty far behind since 3D printing wood is, as most of you should realize, impossible. While there have been siome efforts to 3D print a wood-like substance, it will take years before this technology can be applied on a construction scale.
Be that as it may, there are also exceptions for the floor. Not surprisingly, these exceptions have sprung from one of the most innovative countries, which has already used large scale 3D printing in a couple of their projects. The company Aectual has launched the first 3D printed floor, which is going to be placed in the Amsterdam airport. The CEO of Aectual emphasizes the advantage of giving the designer complete freedom over what each and every square meter is going to look like. Again, this is still not something you can just print along with the walls right on construction site, you obviolsly need a different printer, different materials and experts specialized in the field to use this technology. Nevertheless, it’s cool learn about the new ways 3D printing affects the construction industry.
3D printing extras
We have talked about walls, roof and floor. Unless you want to live in a sealed black box, there is more to a house than that. There is plumbing, there are plugs for electricity, there are windows, water pipes and so much more. If you actually ask whether a water pipe is printable, you should reread this article. The real question is how to print the cutouts for electricity, water, as well as windows. Because if you remember correctly from the part about printing roofs, it is very impossible to print an overhang. Well, there are different methods and different possibilities, one of them being to include the entire window frame in your printing. This might be the most efficient way, since there is no overhang and most people want framed windows anyway. As for the plumbing, you can easily add specific appliances to hold the plumbing as well as cut out parts of the wall while it is drying,
Conclusion on 3D printing an entire house
The most important thing you have got to keep in mind is the question, how much of an entire house can be 3D printed, is phrased the wrong way. Instead, we should ask ourself: What is the best, most efficient, safest and cheapest way to build a house? If that question leads us to 3D printing? Great. But the general trend here, to force 3D printing at every cost into the construction world, is the wrong way. We are not at a place right now, where we can builtd up a printer just about anywhere and a couple hours later we have a perfectly ready to move in house with doors, windows, perfectly furnished, safe and cheap. Maybe that’s the future of construction, we don’t know yet, but from the current standpoint, we need to assess for every building new, if 3D printing is a good fit and for which parts of the house. If that means only the walls are going to be 3D printed? So be it. Let the critics talk and talk, you know why 3D printing is the future of construction and by realizing this early, you are going to have some great advantages.