3D printing allows you to create almost any object. Last year (yes, that’s 2021) Several projects in Mexico, California and the African country of Malawi have tested the potential of construction technology. Building houses with large industrial 3D printers is not a novelty, but in 2021 we witnessed many larger projects and printing entire neighborhoods. The projects are different, some should offer greater comfort to the residents, and some should meet the basic human needs.
In Malawi, Africa, the 14Trees project should improve the quality of life by increasing access to cheaper housing and increasing the number of schools.
In Mexico, the New Story initiative builds 500 houses for households living in extreme poverty. The project starts in Mexico and is a collaboration between Échale – the company for the production of social housing, and Icon – the American company for technology in construction. Development company Palari Group and construction technology company Mighty Building are working on the first “net-zero” 3D-built neighborhood. Unlike previous projects, this time it is a semi-luxury neighborhood that comes with houses that are printed, but also a bunch of other technology that improves life.
In recent years, after the onset of the pandemic, the possibilities of 3D printers have become clearer to everyone. With 3D printers, layer by layer, almost anything can be created. In Macedonia, thanks to the volunteers at the beginning of the pandemic, when there was a shortage of masks, medical protective masks were printed.
3D printing is a technology / process in which computers are controlled by adding layers of materials to create a 3D shape. The technology itself has been around since 1980, but at the time it was too expensive for most applications. Today there are solutions that offer product design, production of components and tools, production of electronics, and are used for medical purposes.
Some 3D printers are designed for use in the construction industry. These are some of the largest 3D printers, and building materials are used as printing material. For the whole process it is necessary to first make a 3D-digital object of the object to be printed. The computer that manages the print then reads the design and manages to add layers to the material being printed. The process allows you to create almost any shape imaginable.
Creating houses and other buildings with a 3D printer has several advantages. The whole process is cheaper, faster, less polluting, and offers homes that are quick to move in. Additionally with 3D printing it is much easier to estimate how much building materials are needed, so do not spend unnecessarily on material that will not be used. The construction of the facilities requires fewer workers, which on the one hand reduces the risk of injury, but on the other hand will reduce the number of employment in industry.
Advantages of building with 3D printer
Faster construction – the walls are ready in 12, up to 18 hours
Reduced pollution – CO2 emissions reduced by up to 70% compared to traditional building methods
Construction costs reduced by up to 20%
As for the quality of the buildings, they are currently in a test or prototype phase and there is not enough data. Opinions are divided on high-rise buildings, but houses in Mexico have already withstood an earthquake measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale.
Buildings for financially disadvantaged families in Mexico
New Story started working on a neighborhood for socially disadvantaged families in 2019. So far, 200 homes in Esquinapa, Mexico, are under construction or completed. A part of about 10 homes that were built in September 2021 are made on the site with 3D printing. This is only a small part of the 500 houses that need to be printed if the announced plan is followed. In addition to homes, there are plans to build a school, market and library.
The whole project started after Hurricane Villa hit Mexico. The hurricane destroyed everything in front of it, farms, schools, homes. In 2019, with the onset of the pandemic, families in Eskvinapa had no homes and the region was at the center of a war between criminal cartels.
The need to create a refuge for these people was crucial for the project itself to begin. The construction uses the Vulcan II Icon printer with which you can build entire homes at once.
3D printing for a better life, Malawi
The homes available to all are the focus of the 14Trees Foundation project. 14Trees is a collaboration between developer CDC Group and cement manufacturer LafargeHolcim. The goal of the project, in addition to cheaper homes, is to increase the availability of schools in Malawi.
With the technology they use to make homes, 14Trees also reduces air pollution. The name of the initiative comes from the number of wood needed for baking bricks needed to build a house, and now, thanks to 3D printing, they have been saved.
In July 2021, the first 3D-printed school was opened in which children from Malawi can attend classes.
Settlement in Rancho Mirage, California
In California, the Mighty Building company is working on a more exclusive neighborhood as proof of concept. In addition to the 3D home printing technology used, there are a number of other technologies that should increase the energy independence of buildings and provide a more comfortable life after moving in.
Homes come with artificial intelligence that turns on the air filtration system if there is a need to clean the air of pathogens, polluting particles, odors and allergens. The houses also have their own water filtration system, solar panels, Tesla Powerwall and chargers for electric vehicles.
Shambhala Park, Wasp prototypes
The Italian startup WASP is working on the design of simple and cheap, eco homes. The company last month introduced the first ecosystem – the Gaia cottage, which costs about $ 1,000. The “cottage” is made of earth and natural materials, and the prototype was first presented 2 years ago. The house is almost entirely made of earth, which is a challenge in protecting from moisture, but for now Gaia is withstanding the test of weather conditions.
Gaia’s advantage is that most of the building materials are taken directly on site, which makes the construction process even cheaper.
Building with 3D printers is the future of the construction industry, but at least for now it is too early to talk about when traditional building will be replaced. The whole construction process is cheaper, but an obstacle to transfer to the new process is the high cost of printers used in the construction industry, but also the lack of staff that will have to service the machines.