Houston, Texas —(Map)
When you think of 3D-printing, you may think of small objects. But three companies are working together to print something much bigger. They’re using a giant 3D printer to create what they say is the first two-story 3D-printed house in the US.
Usually, 3D-printing involves a machine building something by putting down many layers of a material – often hot plastic. When the material hardens, the layers stick together to create a finished object. The method here is similar, but uses concrete.
3D-printing has been around for a while. But until recently, it hasn’t been used much in the US for building houses. Now, that’s changing. Several 3D-printed houses have been built in the US, and more are planned.
So far, no one in the US has 3D-printed a two-story house. And this one will be a large, 3-bedroom house.
The house, which is in Houston, Texas, was designed by a company called HANNAH. Another company, PERI 3D Construction, provided the 3D printer. And a construction company called CIVE is doing the actual building.
Leslie Lok, who designed the house, says there are special challenges involved in printing a two-story house. One of the biggest is the size of the machine needed for the building. The 3D printer in Houston is massive. It weighs over 12 tons (that’s 24,000 pounds or about 10,900 kilograms).
Ms. Lok says printing the house will take the massive machine about 330 hours. That’s about eight normal work weeks.
But the team isn’t in a rush. Though it’s a two-year project, the actual printing didn’t start until last July. The house is now about halfway finished.
“We are not trying to beat the clock,” says Hikmat Zerbe, who works for CIVE. Instead, they’re using the house as a “big laboratory” to learn more about 3D-printing houses. They want to see how the concrete reacts “under different weather conditions”.
They also want to figure out how to make 3D-printing faster and cheaper. Mr. Zerbe says that currently, 3D-printing a house with concrete costs more than building a house with wood.
That’s partly because the technology is new. With time, Mr. Zerbe expects the costs of 3D-printing houses to go down. He thinks printers will improve and make it easier to create more houses quickly.
3D-printed concrete houses are stronger and hold up better in serious storms than houses built with wood. This can save money in the long run. Since the machine is doing the building, fewer workers are needed, which also saves money.
Ms. Lok says that with 3D-printing, it’s easy to make each house different from other houses. For example, she’s using the 3D printer to create special shelves all through the Houston house.
These kinds of changes can apply to almost anything. “The printer doesn’t care if you print the same chair 100 times or you print 100 different chairs,” says Ms. Lok. That means that in the future, each house could be created specially for its owners.
But if you want to move into a 3D-printed house, you’ll have to wait. This one has already been sold.
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