SHANGHAI, CHINA - AUGUST 24:  (CHINA OUT) A general view of 3D-printed house is seen at Shanghai Zhangjiang High-Tech Zone Qingpu Park on August 24, 2014 in Shanghai, China. Ten houses were produced by a large-scale 3D printer in 24 hours, and the raw material is construction waste.  (Photo by Visual China Group via Getty Images/Visual China Group via Getty Images)
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The Untold Truth Of 3D-Printed Houses
While compact 3D printers have increased in the last few years, the technology has been around since the first patents were filed for what would eventually become 3D printers in the '70s. Stereolithography, the method that makes 3D printing possible, was patented in 1984, and the first device to use it was created in 1987.
Since then, the technology has created objects not possible without mass production before, including scaling up the printer to the size of a house. Habitat for Humanity announced in January 2022 that the first owner-occupied house built with 3D printing would be available to a family in Virginia; they are excited to use 3D printing to help more families (via House Beautiful). states the average time to build a home in the U.S. is about seven months, from permit approval to final inspection, but one of the promises of 3D printing is reduced construction time. The printed portion of the Habitat house was completed in 28 hours, and framing, drywall, and trimming took a day; add installing windows and doors, and construction time will be cut from seven months to less than one.
Building houses with a printer also reduces both raw materials and workers needed. Once the printer is set up, it does most of the work with only a couple of workers to monitor the progress. Austin-based Icon built a 350 sq. ft. prototype house with its patented printing system in 48 hours, costing about $10,000, but they expect to get it down to $4,000.
Housing needs in the developing world are dire. Non-profit charity New Story has been providing housing to people in Central America, having built 150 homes and raising the money to build 1,300 homes more; COO Alexandria Lafci wanted to see if there was a better way to make this happen faster and help more people, and then she found Icon.
Icon’s 350 sq. ft. house is a prototype for homes in Latin America, preferably costing about $4,000 with a construction time of less than a week. The biggest challenge is the logistics of moving enormous equipment to places with poor infrastructure and extreme climates, but 3D printing could help alleviate housing issues and become life-changing to vulnerable communities worldwide.
Construction company Azure is reshaping how we build homes by using recycled plastic sourced from water bottles and food packaging; rather than printing a home onsite, Azure creates pre-fab pieces and ships them for assembly on-site (via Bob Vila). Taking sustainability even further, an Italian architect has plans for printing structures using clay from natural materials nearby (via My Modern Met).
With a 3D printer, you can build a house in almost any shape or form you can imagine. Yanko Design notes the unique attributes of several homes already built; a home in Amsterdam features a steel-printed bridge with flowing contours and repeating lattice on the sides, and in San Sebastian, Spain, a home is made of large cantilevered large box-like structures.