Looking for your dream home?
Just press print. You know, I love 3D printing. I’ve talked
about it a lot, in fact the second episode ever of Fw:Thinking
was about 3D printing. And it was pretty thorough. But I’ve got to talk about it some more, so
here’s a way to catch up. It’s also known as additive manufacturing,
because a 3D printer builds an object by laying layer upon layer of material until
it’s finished. It’s less wasteful than regular manufacturing
because you don’t have to cut or carve away material to build your object.
And in fact the automotive and airplane industries have been using this technology for years
in order to develop prototypes in a cheap and easy way.
But I’m still not thinking big enough! You see most of the 3D printers I’ve had experience
with have been on the small side. The biggest one I ever saw was large enough
to make a helmet that fit on my head. But when it comes to 3D printers, size is
not a limiting factor. So what if you built a 3D printer large enough
to print a house? Well if you did…
you’re late to the party because someone has already done exactly that!
And I’m not talking about a hypothetical prototype. I’m talking a working 3D printer that uses
recycled construction material and quick drying concrete as ink.
A Chinese company called Winsun used four of these types of 3D printers to build ten
houses in one day outside of Suzhou China. Now how big are these printers?
Well how about 33 feet wide by 22 feet tall? And for our friends outside the United States,
that’s 10 meters by 6.6 meters. These printers are gargantuan!
Now, these printers follow preprogrammed patterns, and those patterns are designed to create
structurally sound houses, so that they can stand up to their own weight.
Now Winsun’s approach requires some work because they print the various pieces separately and
then they have to put them together. Even so, with this approach they’re saving
money with materials, with labor, with time. And these houses cost less than $5,000 a piece,
so this approach could really be a boon for low income housing.
Now you don’t have to go all the way to China to see this in action.
We have a company here in the United States called Contour Crafting that does essentially
the same thing. Now their 3D printer is mounted on a rail
system, so it can roll up and down a construction site and build an entire house from floor
to roof in one go. No assembly required. And Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, who is a
pioneer in this field says it would take just 24 hours to build a house this way!
But this is just the beginning, and people are already talking about using this technology
to build houses for people who have lost their homes in the wake of a natural disaster.
And maybe as this technology grows and evolves over time we’ll see it being used to build
the dream houses of the future. So you won’t go to break ground on your new
housing project, you’ll just make sure the toner’s not too low.
OK, I’ve got a question for all of you this week.
What do you think about 3D printing? Is it going to democratize manufacturing, or is
spelling the doom and gloom of the consumer market?
What’s your take on this technology? Let me know in the comments below.
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