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3D Printing: The Future of Homes

3D printed homes

Remember the days when our parents and grandparents would sit us down and tell us about how they got their dream home when they were our age? “Yeah, when I was your age your mom and I were settling into the home of our dreams. It took us a bit of savings to be able to afford it, but it’s ours. You should do the same.” Okay grandpa, thanks but the housing market sucks right now.

Whether you’re building a home or buying one, the cost is nothing short of outrageous. Because of this, many people have said goodbye to their housing dreams and reside in rent houses or apartments. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, but if you’re looking for a place to truly call your own and stretch your legs, then you’ll need more than just a “bit of savings”.

So what’s the solution? Resign to renting for the rest of your life or go into debt putting down a small fortune on a home? Both seem like awful options, but thankfully there might be some hope on the horizon that won’t take 4 bank accounts and a right arm in order to have a home. And that option is 3D printing.

It probably sounds strange, thinking of living in a home that’s been 3D printed but houses around the world have already been constructed using this method. So move over 3D printed toys and objects, it’s time to start giving people the house of their dreams for a fraction of the cost. And for those of you who are skeptical of living in a house constructed with plastic filament, don’t be. Your home will be made using concrete that the 3D printer pumps out.

What’s the cost?

3D Printing Cost

This is easily the biggest question on everyone’s mind regarding the 3D printed house hype. Anyone who is familiar with 3D printing knows that the filament is largely inexpensive. It’s pricy to buy at first, but you get so many uses out of a roll that it becomes super inexpensive.

However, it’s got to be super expensive to 3D print a house, right? You’d think it would. After all, there’s a big difference between a 3D printed model that sits on your desk as opposed to an actual house.

Of course, the price will depend upon how big and complicated you want the house. A basic model that’s 650 square feet will cost about $10,000. The company is also reporting that it hopes to lower that number to $4,000 after they get better with the printing.

There is also a company that intends to 3D print an entire college. It will be printed off site in pieces, similar to large projects that we’re familiar with, and then assembled on site. Once completed, the building will be around 1,000 square foot and will cost somewhere between $300,000 and $400,000. Keep in mind that this figure also accounts for plumbing, electricity, furniture, and appliances. The same project if built using traditional methods, would easily triple those figures.

So on average, 3D printed homes and infrastructures are significantly cheaper than their counterparts. Since the process is done using mostly robots and very few laborers (it also isn’t a very labor intensive process), the cost of labor drops tremendously. And because they don’t take long to construct, you’re paying less men for fewer hours. The bulk of the home’s cost comes from the roof, appliances, windows, etc.

How long does it take?

3D printer printing house

In 2017, the company Icon constructed a 350-foot square house. The construction was completed in 48 hours using the 3D printer. This means that aside from the roof, windows, etc. you can have your home close to move-in ready within 2 days. The cost was also $10,000 but the company hopes to significantly slash that price within the next few years.

While 48 hours is fast, the company also told the press than their printer was operating at 25% capacity. This means that it can print a home much, much faster than 48 hours. Icon was convinced that they could definitely do better than this time. Within a year, the company was pumping them out in just a few hours shy of 48 hours.

Icon also just introduced Vulcan II, their new prototype. According to the company, the printer will be able to build larger houses in close to half the time and for less than half the cost. This means you could get a 700+ square foot home constructed in 24 hours for $5,000.

The Vulcan is capable of pumping out concrete slabs that reach upwards of 8 and a half feet tall and will stretch as much as 28 feet wide. And because the machine operates via tablet, the labor costs are extremely limited; you don’t need a ton of people to operate machinery.

Affordable housing alternatives

3D printer affordable house

Companies and groups around the world have already seen the potential of these homes. Because they are so cheap to make, companies like Icon want to extend their reach beyond the first-time homebuyer who’s looking for a place to call their own without sinking their entire savings into it. They also want to market these homes to those in need of housing.

Currently, plans for the printer include a trip to El Salvador. Here, the technology will be used to print homes for people who are in desperate need. These houses will take people off of the streets, and give them a much-needed roof over their head. And because the cost is so low, residents won’t need to sink a ton of money into them and corporations can sponsor these homes to further offset the cost.

Icon also wants to take the printer to areas around the world that are need of housing. Slums and shantytowns would benefit from the 3D printing technology and could not change the lives of many for the better, but could significantly alter the area for the better. Poor areas such as Progresso where homes are constructed out of decaying, readily available materials would also benefit from having this technology.

However, Icon doesn’t just have its sights set on improving the Earth: the company also hopes that in the future, their printers will be used in space. They hope to 3D print space stations, satellites, and more.

First family to occupy a 3D printed home

First 3D printing house

During the summer of 2018, a family in Nantes, France became the first family to occupy a 3D printed home. This home was called the “Yhnova” project. Since its creation, it’s come to be known as the Yhnova house. And surprisingly, it blends in seamlessly with the surround areas.

It took 54 hours to complete the printing of the home. Which we probably don’t have to tell you is incredibly quick for a family home construction. However, it took four months after the printing was complete before the family could move in. During this time, windows, the roof, doors, and appliances were added to the home.

The cost to build the family dream home? $232,000. While this might seem like a substantial amount of money for a home, BBC actually estimates that it is around 20% cheaper than a similar house constructed using traditional methods.

Sights set on the stars

Unique house design

For many, space really is the final frontier. Since the dawn of time, it has captured our imaginations and we have done our best to learn everything we can about it. We have also explored what we want of space while setting our sights on extending the areas of exploration.

Despite the fact that NASA’s first manned trip to Mars is about 2 years away (assuming it’s a possibility at all), there still needs to be a structure in place to shelter the voyagers once they arrive. You simply can’t take people to space and drop them on foreign soil and expect them to be fine without access to shelter.

Because of this, they have begun researching and toying with the idea of a 3D printed base for Mars. The cost is would of course be staggering, but NASA has proven that it’s more than willing to pay. In 2014, a multi-phase $3.2 million competition was held in order to accumulate designs outside of their facility. Through this competition, NASA is not only able to garner some ideas and expand their think tank, but to also prove to the world that they’re serious.

In April 2019, there is going to be a print-off of at least two teams that will be competing head to head. AI Space Factory and Apis Cor (who has since merged with SEArch+ are the teams. They are currently working on models as well as printing materials and by April 2019, they should have some solid plans to unveil.

The teams may also participate in phases of their choosing. Money will also be awarded during each phase in order to keep the participants motivated and engaged.

3D house printing is still in its infancy

3D house printing simple home

It goes without saying that this construction method is still in its infancy. It’s relatively new to the market and currently, they printers are limited to single stories and mostly tiny homes.

There are a number of hurdles that are still in the way for the technology and the companies are slowly working on overcoming them. The biggest is that they want to make these homes as quickly and as efficiently as possible. Even though the printing process is actually incredibly fast, averaging 1 to 2 days in many cases, it takes a significant amount of time to “finish” the home. This is to say that the roof, windows, electricity, and plumbing take much, much longer.

There is also the issue of cost. Sure these homes are largely inexpensive to construct, but there is still the cost of fleshing out the home. Windows, roofing, plumbing, etc. must still be completed by skilled laborers and this takes both time and money. And since these items currently can’t be loaded into a printer and set to automatic, the cost and time of the homes goes up. 

There’s also people who are skeptical of these homes and believe that the companies are overreaching. Many are asking who will these homes help? And while companies suggest that it’s first time buyers and poor communities, there is still skepticism. After all, if everything else about the house takes so much time and money, are we really helping these people out in the long run?

Others want to know if these houses will stand up to time. Sure, concrete is a strong construction material, but it does have a tendency to break down over time. Will 3D printed houses do the same? And are they up to safety standards? I.E. can they handle exposure to a hurricane or tornado in the way that a traditional home can?

Environmental concerns have also been voiced. Concrete is both hazardous and harmful to our environment. Many say it’s worse than plastic and fossil fuels when it comes to damage. Because of this, many have taken to protesting the 3D printed homes.

Another issue is that for the most part, companies are only able to print single story houses. 2 stories and more are definitely available, but they are much more difficult to make. 3D printers will definitely need to up their game and make it easier to print multiple stories.

And regarding space exploration and placing structures for us to visit on foreign planets, many are left wondering if these structures will be able to stand up to the hazards and problems in space. Mars and the Moon are both largely unforgiving terrain. Can these 3D printed structures withstand that?

In addition to these questions, many (including the companies) are wondering if it’s both sustainable and realistic to expect this type of construction to scale up. In other words, once they start constructing larger and more elaborate homes/businesses, will they still remain cost effective? Is this something that the printers will be capable of handling?

What are your thoughts?

We’d like to know what you think about putting 3D structures into space. Would you visit Mars and stay at the 3D house if they were to construct it? Would you trust the materials to keep your safe? We also want to know whether or not you’d live in a 3D printed house. If you wouldn’t, why not? What bothers you about them? And if you would, what draws you into them? Let us know in the comment section!

Vimal Lalani is senior correspondent for Ishli, Medical and Wellness unit, reporting breaking news and health consumer reporting on Ishli.com.

Written by Vimal Lalani

Vimal Lalani is senior correspondent for Ishli, Medical and Wellness unit, reporting breaking news and health consumer reporting on Ishli.com.

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