How long before we can 3D print ourselves a new home?

Contour Crafting technology developed by the University of Southern California

Contour Crafting technology developed by the University of Southern California

A few years back when I first heard about 3D printing, and there was talk about being able to print off a new set of lungs or a new heart valve, I just couldn’t visualize exactly how that was possible. ‘Back to the Future’ stuff as far as I was concerned.

Today, for not much more than the price of the latest laptop or iPad, you can buy your own desktop 3D printer and print away at home until your hearts content. Now that I’ve seen them in action, I can fully comprehend the potential…

Want to refresh your home decor? Custom design a new lampshade!

lamp shade

No shoes to match that new outfit? Print some off overnight!

shoe

There are online marketplace’s, like Shapeways.com where you can design, print and sell your products:

Endless creations of desk toys, gadgets, knick knacks, oh, and everyone needs a Mobius Strip of Bacon right?

Weird and wacky to one side, 3D printing has impacted many industries with some very useful and practical applications, particularly in the field of medicine, but apart from a bit of home decor & miniature modelling  it’s still very much early days for 3D printing in the architecture and construction industries.

While the potential is huge, the fact is, that in order to print something as big as a house, you need to build a massive printer and this is probably one of the main factors that’s been holding progress back, until now…

Dr. Bahrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering at the University of Southern California and his team of scientists have been developing new technology that will soon allow giant 3D printers to build entire multi-level houses…in one day.

This technology named ‘Contour Crafting’  is a process by which large-scale structures can be fabricated quickly in a layer-by-layer fashion – like 3D-printing a building. 

So just how long until we can go down to the local hardware store and hire a printer to Contour Craft a new home over the weekend? We’ll that may be a wee way off yet.

In theory, Dr. Khoshnevis and the USC team have the ability to print a whole house in one day right now, but due to a lack of lab space and construction permissions, they are currently only able to print smaller samples (walls etc), but are hopeful that entry-level construction models of the printer will appear on the market within two to three years and with NASA keen on the technology to build structures on the Moon and Mars for human colonisation, we have to hope that we get some traction here on Earth before too long.

3ft wall constructed by Contour Crafting

3ft wall constructed by Contour Crafting

Just recently, a Shanghai Engineering company printed 10 houses entirely out of recycled materials, in just under a day. Although the construction wasn’t one continuous build, rather, the various components were printed separately, then assembled, it’s still a great leap forward in the world of 3D construction. 

China has announced the first 3D printed house project will be launched in Qingdao, Shandong Province. A 3D printed building will be located in the Hi-tech Zone, Qingdao International Sculpture Park, to showcase new technologies.

These buildings are now being used as offices in an industrial park in Shanghai.

These buildings are now being used as offices in an industrial park in Shanghai.

So while there has been much comment online about this technology only enabling the building of ugly little concrete boxes, it’s currently a case of ‘walk before you can run’.

If 3D printing construction fulfils it’s potential, it wont be long until we’ll be seeing something that could look a little more like this:

Dupli Casa by J. Mayer.H

Dupli Casa by J. Mayer.H

or maybe even this?

protohouse

protohouse by Softkill Design.

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