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Five 3D Printed House Projects You Need to Know About

Grace Dobush

Around the globe, innovators are working to channel the fabrication power of 3D printing into customizable, quick-hit housing.
Houses made by 3D printing (also called additive manufacturing) have the potential to radically change the construction industry: 3D printed houses could be made at a fraction of the cost of traditional construction, much more quickly and much more safely, its proponents say. Currently the average time it takes to build a single-family house in the United States is six months; some of these 3D printed houses are completed in mere days. Plus, 3D printing offers many more opportunities for customizing houses and experimenting with design.
“[Architect Antoni] Goudí achieved things 100 years ago that we’re still not doing,” says Shawn Thorne of Branch Technology. “The design principles aren’t accessible to most people. One of our taglines is democratizing design — the idea that the same sort of design that goes into high-end museums and iconic buildings, that is way too expensive for everyday homes, can be embraced.”
Here are five projects making strides in 3D printed housing and reinventing how we think about construction:
3D Print Canal House
DUS Architects are the masterminds behind the 3D Print Canal House, a publicly accessible research project in the heart of Amsterdam. Each of the 13 rooms has a specific purpose and is individually printed with their XL 3D printer, the KamerMaker, before being assembled into the house inspired by the local architecture. The printer melts down bioplastic granules, made of 80 percent vegetable oil, at 338 degrees Fahrenheit to extrude it as liquid. The 3D Print Canal House is currently closed for the summer but will reopen in September.
“We will be moving to a bigger location nearby, with the aim to grow and expand into a real ‘living lab’ with live research on XXL 3D printing,” says expo manager Tosja Backer. At the end of the project, DUS hopes to have determined a cost-effective, sustainable building technique that can be replicated for consumers, and they plan to keep the canal house open as a public building.

Photo provided by 3D Print Canal House
AMIE Project
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Additive Manufacturing Integrated Energy (AMIE) project connects a natural-gas-powered hybrid electric vehicle to a building designed to produce and store solar energy, with both the car and house built with 3D printing. The single-room building constructed by Clayton Homes will be able to function entirely off the electrical grid, but if the sun isn’t providing enough power, the car’s engine will also be able to recharge the house. Considering that 1.3 billion people still aren’t connected to an electrical grid, this could be a game-changer. AMIE will be revealed in late September at ORNL’s Industry Day
Branch Technology
Based in Chattanooga, Tenn., Branch Technology focuses its work on the underlying supports of a house, using what it calls a cellular fabrication printing process. Taking inspiration from nature, Branch’s printed scaffolding is made strong but lightweight and can be filled with a low-cost material to create on-demand housing. Shawn Thorne, who heads up Materials & Finance at Branch, says theirs is the largest freeform 3D printer in the world, capable of building up to 20 by 12 by 15 feet. (Oak Ridge National Laboratories has the biggest 3D printer in general.) As opposed to projects where every element of a house is 3D printed, Branch is taking a minimalist perspective: “How can we minimize the amount of product that reaches a construction site that’s actually 3D printed, and how can we maximize the functionality of it?” Thorne says. Branch will be creating a full-scale pavilion to exhibit in 2016.


Photo provided by Branch Technology

Contour Crafting
An additive manufacturing process called Contour Crafting uses materials including polymers, metals, alloys, ceramics and composites such as concrete to create large-scale objects swiftly. Behrokh Khoshnevis, the director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT), talked about Contour Crafting at a TEDx event, predicting that the technique could be used to build a 2,500 square foot house in 20 hours. Contour Crafting could be used to build intricately customized houses exactly as ordered. It could also be used to build emergency housing for rapid deployment. And this isn’t just an earthly endeavor: Khoshnevis and his team have proposed using Contour Crafting to build on the moon and Mars using local materials.

Photo provided by CRAFT
INNOPrint 3D
The University of Nantes in France, with the aid of engineers from a company called Capacites, created a 3D printer called INNOPrint 3D that can build emergency shelters in 30 minutes. The lightweight, insulated foam structures are about 10 by 10 by 10 feet and could be used for several months. Benoit Ferret of the Robotics team imagines sending one of the machines with raw materials to areas needing humanitarian relief so the shelters can be printed in place on demand. The INNOPrint 3D will be demonstrated during the University’s Digital Week in late September.
Want to learn more about 3D printing? Visit the 3D Printing Marketplace at CES. Register today!