For a long time now, 3D printing techniques have been trying to go mainstream. So far, factors such as cost have prevented mass adoption of the technology, but if a project itself is big, adopting 3D printing could be worth it, like in 3D printed homes, for instance.
The first functional 3D printed home will be ready by next year in the Netherlands, according to The Guardian. The first in the series of five 3D printed homes will be a one-story, two-bedroom house located in Eindhoven. This 3D printed homes project, dubbed Project Milestone, is a five-year initiative to overcome the shortage of skilled bricklayers and provide a much-needed boost to the architectural industry in the country.
“The first aim of the project is to build five great houses that are comfortable to live in and will have happy occupants,” developers say.
The project is a joint venture between Van Wijnen, a Dutch construction company, and the Eindhoven University of Technology, a well-known name in the world of 3D printing. Other contributors to the project include engineering firm Witteveen+Bos, materials company Saint Gobain-Weber Beamix and real estate manager Vesteda.
“The project is the world’s first commercial housing project based on 3D concrete printing,” a spokesperson for the university said, according to The Independent. “The houses will all be occupied [and] they will meet all modern comfort requirements.”
To minimize risks, the first 3D printed home will be small, measuring just 1,000 square feet. The other four 3D printed homes will be multi-story buildings. For the first home, only the interior and exterior walls will be printed on the Eindhoven University campus. However, the architects hope to move the printing process onto the construction site eventually. There is also a chance that by the fourth or fifth home, even the drainage pipes and other necessary installations will be made using the printer.
The chances of Project Milestone being a success are pretty high. The first 3D printed home, which will be put on the rental market next year, has already attracted 20 applications from interested families just a week after images of the project went public. The parties involved in the project previously developed the world’s first 3D-printed concrete bridge using the 3D printer. The bridge is currently used by cyclists in the Dutch village of Gemert.
Rudy van Gurp, a manager at Van Wijnen, said that their use of 3D printed homes will bring down the cost of construction and environmental damage as well, according to The Guardian. “We have no need for the moulds used to create houses made with cement today, and so we will never use more cement than is necessary,” Van Gurp said.
According to the developers, the 3D printed homes are designed to look like “erratic blocks in a green landscape.” Further, the developers say the design aims to be environmentally friendly, like including no natural gas connection. Developers claim that the home will need relatively less concrete and, hence, less cement. This, in turn, lowers CO2 emissions from cement production.
The 3D printer which is being used for the 3D printed homes is like a big robotic arm with a nozzle at the top that showers the formulated cement in a method similar to whipped cream. The cement is added layer upon layer to boost its strength and is “printed” based on an architect’s design.
The use of the 3D printer could also provide an opportunity to customize the house based on the owner’s wishes. Sensors can also be placed directly into the wall, thereby making the homes truly smart. These sensors could include controls for lighting, heating and security.
“3D printing of concrete is a potential game changer in the building industry,” said an Eindhoven University spokesperson. The spokesperson added that 3D printing gives the flexibility to construct any shape, use fine concrete structures and print in all kinds of colors on a single product.
Van Gurp told The Guardian that they are excited about this innovation and consider it to be a futuristic design, but they are already thinking about what’s next. Going ahead, buyers will be able to design their own homes and “make them more aesthetically pleasing,” Van Gurp says.