of 3D printing has been known for quite some time. For some, 3D printing is a
fun hobby where they occasionally make something, while others have created a
business out of it and sell products or fulfil orders to other companies.
3D printers became quite popular with the general public, their availability
has greatly increased, and prices have dropped with it. Now one can start 3D
printing for just a few hundred euros.
three-dimensional printing, we can, of course, expand the spectrum of
possibilities tremendously. 3D printers can print with plastic matter, partly
also with wood (which has admixtures of plastic), some more powerful printers
can also work with metals. Every new material brings fresh potential for wider
principle, the credit for the first such printer belongs to Dr Hideo Kodama,
who, in May of 1981, presented it at a Japanese government research institute
in the Chubu region. However, he was unable to file the patent requirement for
this technology, as experts did not find his research interesting enough. In
1987, the start-up company 3D Systems from California developed the first
commercial 3D printer. It used filaments made of special resins that were
hardened by ultraviolet light.
mentioned above, 3D printing can be used for many different reasons, including
healthcare, clothing, and use in space. Today, however, we will focus on one of
the most unimaginable – 3D printing construction.
Back in 2003, Ma Yihe, a Chinese entrepreneur, founded the company WinSun which specializes in 3D printing architecture in Shanghai; in late 2014, they built a 10-meter-tall, five-story apartment building using 3D-printed concrete material. To date, this technology has been used in more than 400 public construction projects across China.
.WinSun fabricates the fibreglass concrete components at a factory, the structures are then assembled on-site. The process is similar to the construction of prefabricated houses. New start-up companies are also investigating 3D printing buildings directly on location. Of course, using a much larger printer than what we can buy for home use.
construction 3D printer uses a massive nozzle through which it extrudes
quick-drying cement-based materials. In this way, the object is built layer by
layer, which the engineers have previously designed using a computer program.
construction companies have already started 3D printing public buildings,
warehouses, and residential buildings. The costs are usually much lower
compared to conventional methods, even though 3D-printed concrete is more
expensive than conventional construction concrete.
For COBOD, Denmark’s leading 3D construction company, the average material cost was 1,300 euros for some of its main printing projects. This, of course, only includes concrete for the structure of the houses. However, the figure may become even more attractive in the coming years, as building materials for conventional construction become more and more expensive, and concrete prices for 3D construction fall even more.
3D construction printing also requires far fewer workers, as a normal size residential building can be erected by two or three operators. In addition, such a house can be printed in a few days.
should be noted that this is only about building walls. At least for now, 3D
printers can’t build a foundation or a roof. Windows, doors, electrical
installations and plumbing, and other finishing touches still need to be taken
care of in the “traditional” way.
There is also much talk about energy savings in 3D construction printing. In traditional construction, for example, refined petroleum products are of great importance for powering trucks and construction equipment. Instead of fuel, 3D printers run on electricity. The power usage used by the ARCS 3D Printer is said to be about the same as a standard hairdryer.
not all. Due to the construction technique and the material used, it is
estimated that 3D printed houses are more energy efficient and easier to
maintain a stable temperature in the rooms. Some homes can even achieve
net-zero energy consumption by adding solar panels to their roofs.
In 2017, the University of Nantes in France built a 3D-printed house, which, a year later, a family moved into. Curved-wall structures built using a patented 3D printing method called BatiPrint3D improved thermal resistance and air circulation, and the house has wheelchair access. In addition, due to its curvature, the house was built to curve around the plot’s 100-year-old protected trees.
printing took 54 hours, and the house has an area of 95 square metres. The
contractors then needed another four months to add in things such as windows,
doors, and a roof. The cost of building the house amounted to just over 200,000
euros, which is 20 per cent cheaper than an identical construction using more
traditional solutions. After completing the project, the team expressed their
belief that the next house could be built in 33 hours.
In September 2020, the construction of Germany’s first 3D-printed residential building began in Bavaria, Germany. The five apartments over three floors with around 380 square metres of living area were built using a 3D construction printer called ‘BOD2’, reportedly the fastest on the market. It took 100 hours of 3D printing.
The building consists of three-layer hollow walls filled with insulating material. The BOD2 can complete 1 square meter of double-skin wall in under five minutes at a speed of 2.2 mph (1 m/s). Printing requires two operators.
The system they used includes a print head that travels along three axes on a sturdy metallic frame, allowing the printer to move to any location within the structure and only needing to be calibrated once; the family-owned construction company PERI, which managed the project, said in a statement. This saves both time and money.
addition, the printer can operate while other tasks are being done in the
printing area. This way, manual tasks such as installing pipes and connections
can be completed while 3D-printing the structure.
A US start-up company, Azure Printed Homes, went one step further and began 3D printing houses with recycled plastic. Prices for a simple backyard studio, which includes a small kitchen and bathroom, start at $40,000 for residents of the state of California.
printer can print the floor, roof, and two walls in a single day. In the walls,
the printer includes channels for plumbing and wiring. The two other walls
aren’t 3D-printed but are pre-engineered panels with doors and windows.
point, it is still difficult to assess the durability and feasibility of 3D-printed
structures. Only time will tell whether such a construction method is feasible
in a broader sense, and, of course, building regulations must also be considered,
which in many places do not allow such a construction method.
Author: Marko Želko
Keywords: 3D printing, home construction,
article is part of joint project of the Wilfried Martens Centre for European
Studies and the Anton Korošec Institute (INAK) Following the path of
digitalization in Slovenia and Europe. This project receives funding from the
and views set out in this article are those of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union
institutions/Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies/ Anton Korošec
Institute. Organizations mentioned above assume no responsibility for facts or
opinions expressed in this article or any subsequent use of the information