3D Printing: Your Next House Could be "Printed," Not Built


I've never considered myself to be living in "the future" — namely because there aren't any flying cars zooming around outside and no aliens to make contact with. But then I realize flying cars do exist (kind of) and that scientists recently announced that they've just discovered three planets that are some of the best candidates for habitable worlds outside of our solar system. Most significantly, though, there's a little thing called 3D printing that decades ago no one even imagined.

3D printing has the potential to revolutionize a wide swath of industries, but the most recent one to come to the forefront is the housing industry. Instead of hiring a team of construction workers to build a house out of bricks and mortar, you'll soon be able to just have your home printed.

The first house on the agenda is a canal home set to be printed in Amsterdam. Masterminded by a team of Dutch architects, the house will be assembled by a 3D printer that stands over 19 feet tall. The architects created computer-drawn plans that then are fed to the printer, which will use plastic and wood fibers to print everything from walls, ceilings, and furniture.

The printer will use a layering process to create the different pieces of the house, where material is gradually laid down in a pattern until it is built up. Many of the pieces therefore are in a ring-like shape (check out the window of the house pictured in this article), which also increases the stability of the structures, as structures with curves are stronger.

If safety is a pro, what are the cons of a future where all buildings are printed? A loss of constructions jobs is certain. It’s also possible that a loss of diversity in the types of buildings we see will result as well (I don't think a 3D printer could print the Sagrada Familia, for example).

But 3D printing will enable architects to construct the designs they dream up at a fraction of the cost and at a much greater speed, which I think will open up new ideas about design. Our traditional idea of a house may be turned upside-down. It may also offer the potential for much lower-cost housing for people who need it, another important benefit.

I think that 3D printing houses or food will offer exciting new ways to build imaginative things at lower cost and have things custom-made. Yet the technology also has its drawbacks — we're rapidly approaching the possibility that a 3D printer can print a handgun, making weapons readily available throughout the Internet. Even if we try to put restrictions on who can download the 3D printing plans for guns, on the Internet, there's always ways to get around restrictions.

For all of its virtures, 3D printing poses a lot of dilemmas, and we will have to decide how to deal with those problems soon. The future is closer than you think. The architects plan to have the Amsterdam house printed before the end of the year. Someday in the future, millennials will have to decide whether they want to buy an existing house or have one printed.