The future of home construction could rest on the shoulders of massive 3-D printers, as multiple firms around the world develop their versions of the house of the future, built to order by a computer. Requiring no manual labor and exceedingly fast, 3-D printed houses could serve as emergency shelter during natural disasters, or just as a supply of cheap housing as developing nations grow in population density.
The dream of building prefabricated houses began with Thomas Edison, who saw in concrete an enormous potential for invention. The plan was to construct a mold of each house, then gradually fill in the spaces with concrete. His company began producing the material on an industrial scale, but the idea, much like many of Edison’s inventions, went absolutely nowhere.
But with modern technology’s ability to print these industrial materials according to architect’s designs, the time for taking construction crews out of construction may have come. Using a 3-D printer that wraps around the new house’s plot, the layers of the house are, one by one, printed and placed.
Although some newer companies are restricted to a simple configuration of four walls, a ceiling and a floor, more advanced printers promise multistory houses that contain modern conveniences like plumbing and wiring. These state of the art printers are capable of building a completed house in under a day, allowing for the quick construction of rows of such houses if the need arises.
In many places prone to tsunami and typhoons, the availability of robust, easily manufactured housing would be a godsend to natives who live in constant fear of the next storm. Providing 3-D printed houses for these groups would provide not only the data researchers need to improve, but a vital test of the response time and life-saving potential of this still emerging technology.
Though these houses are quickly built and affordable, don’t expect to see rows of 3-D printed houses suddenly lining your block. Innovators need to radically alter the limitations of the houses built before they can compete with what, at least in the developed world, we have come to expect in our homes. But as these proofs of concept proliferate, many of the lessons in automation that this technology has taught builders will be of use in future construction projects. And with printers and people working side by side, the result will be better, safer houses for everyone.
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