3D printers, the future of prefab houses

on August 30, 2014

3D printing is any of various processes for making a three dimensional object of almost any shape from a 3D model or other electronic data source primarily through additive processes in which successive layers of material are laid down under computer control. A 3D printer is a type of industrial robot.

3D printing has been building amazing stuff lately from small figures to prosthetic limbs to wooden furniture and even prefabricated houses. Many companies have started using 3D printers to build prefab houses at a very fast pace and at a lower price. It has become a solution for rapid construction while reducing associated labor and cost. Many programs are being used for prefab houses that facilitate the building of these houses such as WikiHouse which is an open-source construction system that allows anyone to download and ‘print’ CNC-milled wooden components, which can be quickly and easily assembled into homes without formal skills or training. The software offers consumers free, open-source designs for WikiHouses’ and corresponding CNC (computer numerical control) codes to print structure components out of plywood sheets. Following production, each of the designs can be assembled through interlocking features without requiring any fasteners or nails, similar to a jigsaw puzzle. By allowing consumers to create homes to their exact specifications on demand, WikiHouse is helping to drastically reduce construction cost and waste attributable to mass production lines.

Another example is the Stone Spray Robot an on-site robotic 3D printer that can be used to create architectural designs out of sand. Utilizing a jet spray system, the robot can deploy a soil and liquid binder mix to construct a variety of architectural shapes.  In addition to pointing to the future of building eco-friendly structures, the robot’s creators claim the device runs completely on solar power.

China has started using 3D printing for rapid construction and one Company has demonstrated the ability to construct 10 houses in less than 24 hours using 3D printing. They were able to print out living structures out of concrete using a massive, building-sized 3D printing machine.

The company’s printer is capable of producing up to ten 650 sq. foot homes in just 24 hours, which has provided a solution for many people on China due to the overpopulation and crowding in many areas.

Measuring in at roughly 105 feet long, 33 feet wide, and 21 feet tall, this hulking 3D printer works almost exactly like a normal one — just on a much larger scale. It pumps a special type of pre-mixed concrete through a nozzle and onto a flat substrate in a pattern designed to give the finished house as much structural integrity as possible. Layer by layer, the house’s walls are built, and once the concrete dries, the house is outfitted with doors, windows, and a shingled roof.

The best part is that, since the concrete is made from recycled materials, and the printer eliminates the need for paid construction workers, these houses are extremely cheap to produce. When it’s all said and done, each 650 sq. foot home only costs about $4,800 to produce — which is why they’re being considered as a housing solution to China’s growing poor population.

The future looks good for prefab houses and as 3D printers are evolving day by day, the construction of prefab houses will become even faster and cheaper.