How 3D Printed Houses Are Made ? Steps & Materials Used!


3D printed houses are revolutionizing the construction industry across the globe by making house builds cheaper, faster, and more sustainable. 3D printers are capable of printing a foundation and walls for a small house within 24 hours at a fraction of the cost that could be spent by a typical construction method.

This cutting-edge technology within the construction industry could revolutionize the ownership of homes by many across the world. 3D printed houses have the capacity to reduce homelessness, rekindling the dream of owning homes more accessible to all.

PS: To know how much time is needed to build a 3D Printed house, check out How long does it take to 3D print a house?

How 3-D Printed Houses Are Built? (The Main Four Steps)

While this may seem far-fetched to make a house out through a 3D printer, this cutting-edge technology has made it possible. Let us have a look at how this process works, from the blueprint stage all the way to the finishing touches.

3D Printing Is Here To Stay

1-      Create a blueprint / CAD File

Just like the traditionally constructed homes, the first step involved in 3D printed house construction involves creating a blueprint. 3D house blueprints are designed using a modeling software program. Where it can be customized easily to meet the needs of the owner.

2-      Send the design to the 3D printer

Once the created blueprint has been approved, the engineer sends the design to a 3D printer. This step is known as preparation. Once the 3D printer has processed the file, it is now time to prepare the build platform/foundation to get the 3D print project ready for execution. 

3-      Print the 3D printing materials layer by layer

Before beginning the print, engineers install rails around the construction site to direct robotic arms where to lay the build mixture.

Concrete is the most popular build mixture material used in 3D construction. Pressing the ‘’print’’ button automatically executes the printing process. 3D printers use the additive manufacturing method to print the printing materials layer by layer. (For more on this, check out How Does 3D Printing Work? (Additive vs Subtractive Manufacturing))

The process where 3D printing material is squeezed out via the nozzle is called extrusion. A concrete dryer enables the building material to quickly solidify before adding another layer.

4-      Install additional construction elements

The printing process we have described above only covers the construction of the house’s foundation (in some cases) and wall erection. Additional construction processes and human labor are required to complete the project. Once your 3D house has been printed successfully and post-processing steps like removing rails from the site are completed, it is time to install additional construction features such as doors, electrical wiring, plumbing and windows.

For more on this, check out How Do Electricity and Plumbing Work With 3d Printed Houses?

How Long Does It Take to Build a 3D Printed House?

Generally, it doesn’t even take 24 hours to construct small 3D-printed load-bearing walls of the house. However, this build-out is always done in waves instead of completing everything all at once. The world’s biggest permitted 3D printed house is 1900 square feet and took approximately 48 hours of print time to complete.

In some cases, 3D printing technology can be used to construct the foundation and walls of 3D printed houses in as fast as two days, compared to traditional construction methods that take weeks and months.

What Material Is Used in 3-D Printing Houses?

3D printing construction materials offer much less material variety compared to their traditional counterparts. Within the 3D printing construction industry, the most popular material is the 3D printing concrete, which is a mixture of fibers, and cement, among other ingredients mixed with water. Other materials used in 3D printing houses include synthetic polymers, castable clay, mortar, and recycled old plastic.

Speaking of construction 3D printing materials, let us take a look at what materials can be used in 3D printed houses:

Concrete

Concrete material is the most popular 3D printing construction material. This is largely due to its flexibility in its formulation.  Some 3D construction printer manufacturers have also developed their own ideal formulation of 3D printing concrete, such as ‘’Lavacrete’’ used with the Vulcan 3D construction printers by ICON. 

3D printed concrete is similar to the normal concrete in many ways, but with added super-plasticizers, fibers, and ingredients that make it set in ideal time for layer adhesion as well as strength to ensure less steel reinforcement is needed. 

The key advantage of using 3D printed concrete over the normal concrete is obviously its strength and its similarity to the conventional concrete. This allows for the transfer of knowledge of conventional construction material to 3D-printed house construction. 

The major drawback of concrete is how environmentally unfriendly it is. Concrete production is responsible for more than 5 percent of total global CO2 emissions. This is more dangerous than even CO2 emissions by the airline industry.

Mortar

 Similar to concrete, mortar is a mix made out of sand, cement, and other minerals used in construction. Traditional mortar is basically the stuff placed between the wall bricks or blocks to bond them together. 3D printing using mortar is designed to be used to build entire 3D printed homes.

It is easier and more flexible to work with mortar than concrete. However, mortar-based 3D printing construction is slowly fading out of use in favor of concrete-based 3D printing, mainly due to the additional strength advantage that 3D printing concrete has. However, there are a few exceptions, like CyBe Mortar, used by CyBe’s line of construction using 3D printers.

Soil

Soil material is notably used by WASP and BigDelta construction 3D printers. If the environment is a priority in your list of decision-making, then using on-site soil when mixed with agricultural fiber wastes such as rice husks is an exceptional way of making 3D printed house with almost nil environmental footprint.

Beyond being environmentally friendly, using soil material is also time and cost-effective

For more on this, check out our post Can You Make a 3D Printed House out Of Clay?

Special polymers

The beauty of 3D printing technology within the construction industry is the potential for innovation through using specialized 3D printing materials. Construction 3D printing technology is home to a vast range of innovations in material sciences.

While most of these innovations in the recent past have been centered on making a more effective 3D printing concrete, developing a new synthetic polymer for 3D printed house construction has been the recent trend.

Recycled materials and other plastics

Recycled plastics can also be used to make 3D-printed houses. Derived from a collaboration between Ultimaker and DUS Architects, the duo designed and constructed a plastic house jointly as a way to demonstrate the viability of constructing a 3D printed house using recycled plastic material.

This was aimed to demonstrate how constructing plastic houses using 3D printing technology could serve as a greater solution to the housing needs in the wake of natural calamities or crises. Also, there is an ongoing development in construction 3D printing with bioplastics.

Final Thoughts

The possibilities of 3D printing technology are outwardly limitless, with more advancements happening continuously as the year’s progress. 3D printed houses are not constructed out of giant 3D printers like many would think.

The houses are, rather, built using 3D printed materials or via technologies such as Clay printing or robotic arm.

Deploying 3D printing technology for house construction offers a vast range of merits over the normal construction methods.

sherifjallad

I am a very well experienced techie civil engineer who's extensively interested in 3D printing technology and even more captivated by the potential of 3D printing livable structures

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