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3D printed house

The future of 3D printing houses

Picture of Victor Anusci
by Victor Anusci
Apr 21, 2015

You should read on if you want to know more about the most important people of 3D printed houses.

Developing robots to help us with some of the most complex and demanding human needs, such as building 3d printed houses, is something that has been the ardent goal of many visionaries. Now 3D printing technology is “killing” science fiction by turning these fantasies into reality. In no other application of 3D printing, is this truer than in housing: several technological visionaries from all over the world have been working hard to become the pioneers that will make efficient and speedy 3D printing of fully functional buildings something of the present.

Probably the first ever person that ever made the leap from vision to development is the passionate Enrico Dini, an Italian Civil Engineer who was struck by his idea to build a custom 3D printer that would be able to produce stone buildings. Like many people who discover 3D printing technology, he did not hesitate a moment to dedicate his entire life and invest all his money into it.

Getting 3D printed houses into D-shape

Enrico Dini’s D-Shape technology enables the construction of extremely complex buildings with innovative properties (image: D-Shape)

Even though his D-Shape technology has not yet been commercially applied on a wide scale, he is one of the most respected persons in the field, receiving standing ovations during presentations and talks on the technology of 3D printed buildings. He saw his preliminary work published in leading magazines and even has a documentary titled “The Man Who Prints Houses” in the works.

Dini’s D-Shape 3D printer is a large (6 x 6 m) aluminum printer that uses 300 nozzles to apply a binder to cement powder, in a way that is somewhat similar to other binder jetting process such as Zcorp’s or Voxeljet’s. This work is still in progress. It was already used as the base for projects such as the NYC Waterfront Construction Competition (where has was awarded the first prize), and for a European Space Agency’s study on future lunar colonies built using local “regolith”.

Layers or Modules?

Professor Khoshnevis' Contour Crafting is a technology to build full size, multi-material housing complexes (image: Contour Crafting)
Professor Khoshnevis’ Contour Crafting is a technology to build full size, multi-material housing complexes (image: Contour Crafting)

Another one of the world’s leading pioneers in rapid 3D printed building manufacturing process is Behrokh Khoshnevis, professor at the University of South California. He is the inventor of a set of 3D printing processes called Contour Crafting which won him NASA’s grand prize in the 2014 “Create the Future” contest.

Khoshnevis’ layered fabrication process is somewhat more reminiscent of extrusion based 3D printing processes. It allows for the building of ready-made constructions that include the required conduit for the electrical, plumbing and air conditioning systems. This way, complete arrays of buildings of varied design can be built quickly (at once), at an extremely low cost.

Emerging Objects takes a different approach by 3D printing geometrically intricate bricks (image: Emerging Objects)
Emerging Objects takes a different approach by 3D printing geometrically intricate bricks (image: Emerging Objects)

In California, another fascinating proposal is that brought forward by Emerging Objects, the design studio led by Virginia San Fratello and Ronal Rael. In their many studies on 3D printable materials and binder jetting technology, the duo has proposed the concept of 3D printed smart bricks. Manufactured through several 3D printer “farms”, these bricks would allow for the modular construction of smarter buildings, by integrating complex geometrical shapes to facilitate cooling, warming and water flow.

Faster done than said

Then there are those who talk little and simply focus all resources on going from theory to practice, thus displaying the new exciting possibilities of 3D printed buildings. WinSun is a Chinese decoration, design and engineering company proved that single-storied buildings can be built using a massive 3D printer in record time, by manufacturing ten mini-houses in just 24 hours! The houses were made out of recycled concrete, which is a step in the right direction.

Without many announcements, China based WinSun 3D printed an entire multistoried building (image: WinSun)
Without many announcements, China-based WinSun 3D printed an entire multistoried building (image: WinSun)

However, WinSun’s next project with multistoried buildings proved even more impressive and showed that there are no limits in the application of their technology. Using pre-mixed recycled concrete from construction wastes, WinSun built a four-stores apartment building and a large mansion that covers an area of 11840 square feet! Maybe the mansion is not meeting the high standards and levels of perfection on the surfaces and various finishings, but it is certainly a proof of concept about what kind of amazing things can be achieved using concrete 3D printers.

License: The text of "The future of 3D printing houses" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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