3D printing as low-cost construction technology

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January 29th by

A happy new year (2019) to you our dear readers. At A2Ug Designers & Builders, we like to think outside the box; to solve longstanding problems with sustainable solutions. 3D printing is all the rave right now in the technology circles. You could literally use it to make anything. We must awaken to the potential of 3D printing as low-cost construction technology.

3D printing reminds us of rammed earth construction technology; they both employ a layer by layer building process. If you poured a fast-setting earth-lime mix in a mold or in layers that adhere to each other, and are so small that they do not need molds to hold them in place, you could automate and accelerate the wall construction phase in conventional walling-system dependent structures.

A company in Uganda is combining discarded plastic with sand to make waterproof paving blocks. One could utilize a similar production process to make a liquid material that a gigantic 3D printer can use to pour consistent layers to form slab, beam and walling systems. When you think about it, concrete mixers and concrete pouring systems are already 3D printing concrete.

Inadequate housing is a problem we believe can be solved with 3D printing. 3D printed houses could;

  • Be built very fast so may be ideal for temporary or permanent refugee and disaster housing.
  • Can be built using non-biodegradable material like plastics, protecting the earth while providing cheap housing.
  • Take any shape, organic or otherwise, allowing the incorporation of renewable energy and sustainable solutions like; solar power systems, biogas production, eco “waterless” composting toilets.

The main shortcoming of 3D printing as construction technology is the size of the printers on the market; they are mostly small and thus can only print small plastic objects. While they are getting bigger, and more capable of printing bigger volumes, they are still not big enough to print a house in a reasonably short time. Nevertheless, there are those companies and individuals who have managed to have their own gigantic printers assembled; to print houses.

A collection of 3D printed houses and structures around the world. Enjoy!

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