San Francisco startup Apis Cor recently announced completion of a 400-square foot home in the Russian town of Stupino, constructed almost entirely with a 3-D printer.
More correctly referred to as “additive manufacturing,” the concept of “printing” a new home seems beyond futurism – even bordering on fiction.
“Star Trek” and “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” each suggested “beaming” things or people from one place to another by breaking them down to the atomic level – reminiscent of assembling a full TV picture out of thousands of tiny pixels.
But 3-D printing is science fact – more akin to the way an inkjet printer puts ink onto a piece of paper.
The computer printer builds three-dimensional objects from raw materials one thin layer at a time. Through evolving methods, it fuses the material together, and a physical framework emerges – at breathtaking speeds.
The Apis Cor printer created the hotel-sized house’s walls, partitions and building envelope in less than a day.
Human partners added finishing details like windows, wiring, roofing and paint, but still the cost came in at about $10,000.
As automation becomes a larger part of the construction industry, what will it mean for the future of real estate? The potential savings for being able to manufacture components onsite cuts freight costs to virtually nil.
Some say the savings in labor and material costs as the technology develops could bring a whole new level of buyer into the housing market.
It’s happening faster than most probably could have believed since the nascent beginnings of 3-D printing in the 1980s.
Future customers will be able to choose any shape or size they want. Who wouldn’t want a seamless home built exactly to his or her specifications?
There are still some logistical problems to iron out – property to acquire and permits, planning and approvals to consider. Profits for traditional construction companies might eventually be at risk, as well.
Many altruistic organizations have forecast printed homes as the solution to the homelessness and other housing shortages – even as a practical option to third-world shantytowns.
Disaster preparedness could be a much more manageable task if destroyed homes, bridges, roads and other infrastructure could be replaced with 3-D printers in a relatively short time.