Close-up of architectural model in desk while female architects working on background


Close-up of architectural model in desk while female architects working on background

Photo by: Mindful Media

Mindful Media

How 3D Print Building is Changing the Future

By: Robin Fearon

Building with 3D printing technology is sparking widespread interest in the construction industry. Besides reducing waste and our impact on the environment, it can speed up construction from weeks, or months, to days. Projects that use simple raw materials like soil, straw, and even salt, can be built in a fraction of the time and cost of traditional construction.

Walls are built up layer by layer using an industrial 3D building printer. Construction waste is minimized and, because the printers are mobile like small cranes, they can be set up quickly where they are needed. Home design can be customized easily giving architects more creative freedom.

Companies use recycled products and eco-friendly cements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and make building more sustainable. By using a range of simple, readily available or even waste materials like plastic in the mix, it then reduces the chance of materials being unavailable or too costly.

Most construction uses conventional methods, but 3D print is growing steadily. To see how the technology can change the world around us, here are five projects that highlight bold ideas in 3D print building.

Instant Neighborhood

Community building takes on new meaning with the creation of a neighborhood of 10 3D printed homes in Tabasco, Mexico, aimed at tackling global homelessness. American non-profit New Story and tech company ICON built each concrete house – including two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and bathroom – from start to completion in 24 hours.

Families in the area live on less than $3 a day and New Story says its aim is to provide shelter for the more than one billion people without homes around the world.

Nested Housing

Shamballa, named after the mythical Buddhist kingdom, is the brainchild of Italian 3D print construction company WASP. This project uses soil and straw to build a home in days that cost only 48 Euros in materials and energy. The crane 3D system can print an area of more than 500 square feet. Its circular designs are based on the potter wasp nest.

Each community will feature a vertical garden for growing food and a laboratory with a desktop 3D printer for making furniture, artistic objects and more.

Think Schools

African island state Madagascar is hosting one of the world’s most forward-thinking school building projects. Non-profit Thinking Huts is using 3D print technology to provide schools where children have little or no access to education. Schools are built using local materials and low carbon concrete in under a week.

Beehive-inspired designs allow buildings to be easily expanded, and each school will include gardens built into the walls and solar panels on the roof for power.

Concrete Steps

Researchers at the Swiss University ETH Zurich used concrete 3D printing to build the 16 metre long curved Striatus footbridge. The project used 500 layers of concrete and 53 hollow blocks, held in place by compression, without binding or reinforcement. This reduces materials by up to 70 per cent, and the entire bridge can be ground down and recycled. The technology could be used for larger infrastructure projects and affordable housing.

Crystal Vision

Polymer concrete and salt are the materials Emerging Objects used in designing its impressive 3D Printed House 1.0 concept. Traditional construction methods are mixed with 3D printed bricks, tiles, and components to fabricate each house. Salt crystals were used to create a translucent waterproof material that can be printed in complex shapes, large enough to contain bedrooms, bathrooms, and a family dining room.

Next Up

Building Atlantropa: One Man’s Plan To Drain the Mediterranean Sea

Atlantropa may be the most bizarre and ambitious environmental project you have never heard of.

Can this New 'iTEARS' Technology Help Detect Diseases?

New technology is helping scientists decipher microscopic tear particles to offer clues to what’s going on inside the body. With a simple few drops of tears, this technology can help doctors and scientists detect eye disease and signs of diabetes.

Supercomputers and Artificial Intelligence Create Future Green Industries

Supercomputers and artificial intelligence (AI) are indispensable tools for cooking up the next generation of advanced materials. Advanced computers allow scientists to rapidly design better alloys, chemical catalysts, and plastics using millions of potential candidates. Tomorrow’s high-tech materials are being road-tested this way to cut down human trial and error.

The Perseid Meteor Shower Reaches its Peak

Stargazers rejoice! The annual Perseid meteor shower is upon us. Here's what you need to know...(updated August 11, 2022)

Scientists in China Discover Rare Moon Crystal that Could Power Earth

A rare lunar crystal found on the near side of the moon is giving scientists hope of providing limitless power for the world – forever.

How to Save Humanity from Extinction

Here are some goals we need to achieve if we want to reach our 500,000th birthday as a species.

113 Million-Year-Old Dinosaur Tracks Uncovered Due to Drought

Severe drought conditions dried up a river at Dinosaur Valley State Park in Texas leading to the pre-eminent discovery.

Microplastics in Blood Spotlight Health Emergency from Plastic Pollution

Plastic pollution is growing rapidly across Earth’s ecosystems and its threat to humanity and wildlife is too. Outcomes for health and the environment will be dire unless we tackle it, says a United Nations (UN) report. But the discovery of microplastics in human blood means urgent action is needed.

Digital Twin Cities Can Shrink the Impact of Planet’s Largest Polluters

Cities are the planet’s largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, so they offer the greatest opportunity to tackle climate change. Hitting net zero emissions by 2050, a target set at the COP26 summit, could be achieved more quickly using city digital twins – working virtual replicas – that help track, manage and reduce environmental damage rapidly.

Saving Baby Elephants from a Deadly Herpes Virus

One biotechnology company is accelerating efforts to eradicate a fatal disease affecting endangered elephants.