It’s time to talk 3D, and we don’t mean the cinema. In just a handful of years, the capabilities of 3D printing and 3D printed homes have developed to an astonishing degree.

It is a topic that deserves full, three-dimensional coverage. However, before we take a closer look at famous 3D printed home models, 3D printed home cost, and whether we could all possibly own a 3D printed home soon, let’s cover some basic, 2D ground…

What is 3D Printing?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of creating three-dimensional objects from a digital file. While the standard (subtractive) form of construction implies hollowing out or cutting metal or other materials, 3D printers can create an exact number of successive layers of various substances to form intricate shapes, without needless wastage.

An intricate object being created by a 3D printing machine
Creating intricate shapes through successive layers is at the core of 3D printing; Credit: GIPHY

The technology is already so far advanced that there is a version of it out there that can produce three-dimensional tissue and organs (a so-called bioprinter), that could one day revolutionise organ transplantation. The first patent for a 3D printer was issued to Chuck Hull, the inventor of stereolithography (another term for 3D printing) and the current executive officer of 3D Systems – a North Carolina-based company that engineers, produces and sells 3D printers.

The Advantages of 3D Printed Homes

One of the most apparent advantages of 3D printing is the potential for building more affordable homes since the technology doesn’t’ rely on a massive workforce and wastes no material. This important feature could make 3D printed homes particularly welcome in economically disadvantaged countries, such as Sudan or Kosovo.

The construction of 3D printed homes also takes considerably less time than conventional house building methods, which will make the technology valuable to governments of areas stricken by natural disasters like earthquakes and tornados. An Amsterdam-based company DUS Architects already shifted it’s focus to developing and using 3D printers for disaster relief.

3D printer creates an object from hot molten plastic
3D printer creating an object from hot molten plastic

Furthermore, research shows that the construction of 3D printed homes is markedly more environmentally-friendly than the standard construction methods. There are efforts on the part of 3D printing companies to start using numerous plastic objects floating around in our oceans, or lying about in our waste bins, as printing materials, along with various recycled substances.

Moreover, since one of the biggest challenges in the colonisation of other planets has been transporting construction workers and building materials, NASA is currently trying to ascertain whether 3D printers could help make this more feasible (although, they still need to resolve the issue of uninhabitable atmospheres of astronomical bodies like the Moon).

3D Printed Office Dubai, AKA Office of the Future

The UAE, with Dubai at the fore, is not lagging on the 3D printing front. On the contrary, it’s leading the pack. Last year, The United Arab Emirates National Committee hired two cutting-edge companies: a leading collaborative design firm, Gensler from California and a prominent tech construction company from Shanghai, Winsun to produce the world’s most advanced 3D printed building in the world. Dubbed ‘The Office of the Future’, the cutting-edge structure was printed in just 17 days and installed in an astonishing two days. Needless to say, it’s fully equipped with water, electricity, telecommunications and AC.

Dubai 3D printed office located on Sheikh Zayed Road; Image Credit: Dubai Future Foundation
Dubai’s famous 3D Printed office on Sheikh Zayed Road; Credit: Dubai Future Foundation website

At the inauguration ceremony of the ‘Office of the Future’, His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said: ‘We implement what we plan, and we pursue actions, not theories. The rapidly changing world requires us to accelerate our pace of development for history does not recognise our plans but our achievements.’

Dubai 3D Printing Strategy

Following the success of the ‘Office of the Future’, His Highness and his team devised an entire Dubai 3D Printing Strategy in line with what’s already being done on behalf of Dubai Future Foundation, Smart Dubai and other government entities. On the website of Dubai’s Future Foundation, it’s written that ‘the strategy adopts an emerging technology that will help cut cost in many sectors, especially the medical and construction sector in Dubai. The technology will restructure economies and labour markets, and redefine productivity’.

Two Emirati men in traditional clothing conversing in a factory with a yellow construction workers helmet lying on the ground nearby
Dubai Future Foundation’s forecast is for 3D printing technology to reduce labour by 70 pc

The Dubai Future Foundation’s precise plan is for 25 pc of each building in Dubai to be 3D printed from 2025 onwards under Dubai Municipality’s regulations. Their forecast is for 3D printing technology to ‘reduce labour by 70 pc, reduce cost by 90 pc and reduce time by 80 pc in various sectors’.

So far, the Dubai government has partnered up with a Russian-based company Renca and a US-based Solar Bankers for the implementation of the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy.

One of their targets is to create 3D printed walls made of eco-friendly geopolymer cement that could reduce carbon emissions tenfold.

Also joining the government’s efforts and switching to 3D printed homes in Dubai is a local company called Cazza Construction Technologies. This new 3D printing construction company is run by a 19-year-old Pennsylvania-born entrepreneur Chris Kelsey who brought his work here from Silicon Valley. Kelsey’s company has designed mobile printing robots with the ability to produce a 200-square metre house in 24 hours with two works only. 

3D Printed Home Cost

Last year, a Russian company by the name of Apis Cor & PIK managed to print out a residential home from concrete in record-breaking 24 hours. The 38-square-metre house is shaped like a rotor and features a contemporary design with wooden floors and Samsung’s appliances.

 

Although the property is located 60 miles south of Moscow, Russian winter is not an issue for its residents due to heating insulation made of liquid polyurethane as well as solid elements. Named one of the most successful 3D printing projects in 2017, the total cost of construction was $10,134 (AED 37,222,) only.

In Conclusion

According to reports, the global market for 3D printing is expected to reach US$120 billion by 2020 and approximately US$300 billion by 2025. Hence, it’s safe to assume that in the next few decades, 3D printed homes are likely to play a major part in the real estate markets of prosperous countries such as North America, Russia, the Netherlands, Japan and, of course, the ever-innovative UAE.

However, what’s most exciting about 3D printed homes is the capability of this unique technology to help ease up significant economic issues worldwide, as well as alleviate the effects of climate change.

Plastic bags, bottles and other waste accumulated on a seashore in Malaysia
Sportswear company Adidas already made a 3D printed shoe out of plastic from the ocean

We need this revolutionary technology to support our environment and to help the people in need. That is where the true potential of 3D printing lies: sustainability, affordability and ultra-functionality.

In the words of young Chris Kelsey, ‘there’s a huge disruption that’s about to happen with this technology.’

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