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3D Printed Homes

If you have not ventured to Washington and Lee’s IQ center in the bottom floor of the Science Library, I recommend you take a visit before finishing this post. The center is home to a fully functional 3D printer. The printer uses a specially formulated powder and a blueprint supplied by computer software to print 3D objects. Example outputs are on a table in the same room and they demonstrate the printers versatility.

The Dutch architectural firm Dus has built a 20-foot-tall printer that can build an entire home one room at a time using the same basic technique as Washington and Lee’s printer. The printer takes about a week to produce each of the building blocks that combine to make reach room. Each building block is constructed using a honeycomb design that becomes as hard as concrete when filled with a special foam. Since uniform materials are used as inputs, it is much easier to recycle materials. (It is important to note that this is not the only 3D printer of its kind, the Dus’ printer is unique in the quality of its output.)

Although the printer currently takes about three years to build and entire house, future development could lead to 3D printing becoming a practical substitute or even replacement for traditional building techniques. One of the firm’s co-founders, Has Vermeuelen, believes “We need a rapid building technique to keep up the pace with the growth of the megacities. And we think 3D printing can be that technique (CNET).”

This sort of technology could help eliminate shantytowns. Safe and reliable housing would increase the standard of living for millions of people around the world. When people have basic necessities like food clean water and shelter they can more easily life themselves and their family out of poverty. I would expect providing adequate housing to have an economic impact similar to providing clean drinking water.

In the comments I would love to know how ya’ll think 3D printing will effect the economy.



  1. James Dillard James Dillard

    Come on Peaseley, Y’all is improper english. Secondly 3D imaging is an extremely intriguing process which does not seem to have final production as a marketable possibility without possible subsidies any government could possibly give. The process is on the vanguard of any production process, true, yet building entire homes in 3 years is not a completely ludicrous time frame. If people really wanted to build homes I have seen some in my neighborhood take nearly than long, but with know knowledge of the intricacies each entails on the inside. There is no context as to how large these homes are and to how additions to the infrastructure, if needed can be used or how costs change when insides need to be gutted and replaced. I am interested to see how easy to paint over and do additional work or how complex these rooms can be. If they are producing literal skeletons for the house which are then put together when finalized or how the production process changes once they are done I am interested to find out.

  2. christycui christycui

    I think 3D printing, just like other technologies, will not have a big effect on the economy until it becomes cheaper and readily available to the public. The article talks about how it can be a solution to adequate housing for the poor. That may happen given appropriate policies, but on the other hand there will also be no need for construction workers – a negative impact to the economy. So I think we need to consider both the upside and the downside.

  3. Other changes may matter more, such as new wood technologies that are allowing high-rise buildings to be made without steel and cardboard to be used for regular houses. Read about this year’s Pritzker Prize winner at the NYT.

    In addition, would this not be a marginal change? We already have semi-pre-fabricated houses with wall made to spec in factories. It’s the site preparationg – grading, foundation and all that – and finishing the inside that eats up money. 3D printing might leave channels ready for wiring, but you still have to actually put the wires in, finish surfaces, add HVAC, kitchen appliances, lights, and on and on.

    The building trades employ a lot of people, and they’d have to get retrained (or more likely, young workers trained in the new methods would gradually replace existing workers). Ditto architects. Ditto home buyers. Empirically that process takes about 30 years (my own analysis, presented to top management at the world’s leading residential air conditioning firm).

  4. peaseley peaseley

    To address Christy’s point: While their may be less demand for construction workers, this sort of technology would create demand for workers to run the machines. It would replace the many low-skill low-pay construction jobs with high-skill high-pay jobs printer technicians. This sort of process is one way that average wage increases in an economy.

  5. peaseley peaseley

    While 3D printing in construction may be marginal, 3D printing is poised to affect all sectors of our economy. Many people predict that 3D printing will revolutionize manufacturing and the consumption side of our economy. The concept of an uniform recyclable inputs being turned into complex and useful outputs will dramatically alter the supply and demand foundations of the macro economy. I can go into more detail in my next post.

  6. gjeong gjeong

    I think that if the market for the 3D printing grows more, then it will have a significant impact on the economy. It is possible that 3D printer can print out any kind of things, such as guns, etc. This means there are eventually more supplies at lower costs, driving the prices down. Will this affect the economy? I think the answer is yes.

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