Reprint from realtor.com
Printers have come a long way from simply churning out reams of spreadsheets, high school history reports, and cute cat photos. In case you haven’t heard, 3-D printing is rapidly changing, well, everything. The technology is making the unimaginable real, already producing everything from simple plastic toys to edible pizza and even human tissue and body parts (an ear!). Additive technology, as it’s also called, promises to revolutionize the world as we know it.
And the greatest potential for transformation and disruption, some believe, may be in housing. If “printed homes” seem like a distant fantasy, you’d better buckle your seat belts. You’re in for quite a ride. So how exactly is 3-D printing poised to reshape the housing market?
Well, let’s start with price. Three-dimensional printers don’t require laborers, produce much less waste (as materials are fed into the machines), and will be able to erect homes in days instead of months—making them substantially cheaper to build. And that’s expected to extend the American dream to a whole new group of buyers who would otherwise never be able to afford their own abodes.
Gone will be the problems caused by a shortage of highly skilled construction workers, long building times, and wasted materials such as lumber.
And let’s touch on dreams. Three-dimensional printing will eventually help facilitate the creation of radical new housing designs, new shapes, and brand-new architectural ideas. The road from fanciful concept to livable reality will become shorter and more traversable than ever.
This is exciting stuff—and not just for those who are currently priced out of homeownership. Imagine your average accountant or Chipotle manager being able to design their own Frank Gehry–styled, uniquely shaped home on a computer— and a specialized, industrial-size 3-D printer bringing it into existence in a matter of hours or days for just a fraction of the usual price. Then think of what the technology could mean for storm-ravaged communities if residents who lost their homes could have identical replacements easily printed, complete with furniture.
And we’re not talking about a far-distant future. Rudimentary printed structures, mostly made of concrete and resembling stark gray boxes, are already sprouting up around the globe. Now a handful of cutting-edge construction companies are engaged in something like a 3-D printing arms race—each striving to be the first to refine the technology.
A Chinese company even recently printed a two-story, 4,305-square-foot building on-site in just 45 days. And while such current buildings may not exactly be the “dream home” of your average buyer, experts predict that within five to 25 years (depending on whom you’re talking to), the technology will be advanced enough to print sophisticated and easily customizable dwellings out of wood, metal, and stone. These are places that buyers would be proud to call their own.
The challenges of 3D printing
So when is it coming, for real?
Opinions vary. Rindfleisch believes the technology is still about 25 years away from creating sophisticated homes that buyers would be vying to live in. Other experts have pegged the timeline closer to just a decade—or even half that.
The challenges lie mostly with the materials fed into the devices—and working around their current-day limitations. Scientists are closely tracking the materials used for construction and how long they take to dry before a new layer can be added, Rindfleisch says.
He says progress is coming at a rapid clip. “About two years ago, all we could print was hard plastic,” he says. “Now we can print soft plastics. We can print wood.” The wood is basically a pulp mixed with plastic that can be fed into the printer.
For more information on our Stratays line of 3D printers, please click the button below.