It only seems like a few years ago that 3D printing was new, exciting, and experts thought that we’d be 3D printing on the moon before too long! Although it hasn’t become standard practice to install a 3D printer into a newly built home yet, there are now houses themselves being constructed using 3D printing.
Nouria and Nordine Ramdani are the couple who were chosen to live in the 3D print home in France, which was partly funded by the council as an experiment to see if properties could be built cheaply and efficiently using 3D printing technology. And the result?
The home was printed in 54 hours with a total cost of £176,000, which is 20% cheaper than the build cost of a home of the same size using more traditional construction methods. What’s more, Nouria and Nordine, and their three children, were able to move from a cramped council flat into a spacious and light four bedroomed home.
With 1.6 billion people around the world waiting for safe housing, and the UK’s own housing crisis leaving 1 in 200 officially homeless, could 3D printing your home be the solution that not only saves a huge amount of time, but money as well?
What few people realise is that the 3D printing element of the home wasn’t the entire construction process: there was another four months of construction to add the roof, doors, and windows into the property. And then you have the cost of soft furnishings and furniture, all of which adds to the entire cost of the property, but which isn’t calculated when reported in the media.
And then there’s the technical challenge itself. Although the team who have created this home now estimate that they should be able to 3D print the same design in just 33 hours – reducing their time by 21 hours, or 39% - there is little time or expense that can be spared in other construction areas.
Most importantly for us here at OmniDynamics, there is no indication of how much waste material was generated by the 3D printers during the construction of this home. Many people do not realise that any 3D printer takes a while to warm up, and thus extrudes waste material – whether it is plastic or metal – during that time. People who use 3D printers rarely do anything with this excess material except throw it away.
At OmniDynamics, we wanted to improve that process and reduce the amount of waste that was generated within 3D printing, which is why the Strooder is so revolutionary. It takes excess and waste plastic from previous offcuts and transforms it back into plastic filament, ready to be used again in a 3D printer, dramatically reducing the wastage.
So will we all be living in 3D printed houses one day?
Perhaps – it’s difficult to tell until a 3D printed house has lasted a few decades, as we currently do not know what structural challenges, if any, it will experience over time. Different terrains and climates may have different effects too, which makes it almost impossible at this early stage to determine whether something that works in France would also work in Iceland, or South Africa.
What we do know is that the 3D printing process isn’t yet efficient enough for us to consider manufacturing on that sort of scale, and until we streamline that process through solutions like our Strooder, there is going to be a high waste cost to each home.