TN Company Plans to 3D Print a New House This Year
If you know anything about 3D printing, you know it has come a long way in recent years. Engineers have already used it on radical projects including a printed concrete bridge in China and a pavilion for an art show in Miami. Now, one of the leaders in 3D printing say they are prepared to start printing a house in Tennessee later in 2019.
The project, originally launched by Branch Technology in 2016, is an effort to bring together their 3D printing capabilities with modern architecture. The goal is to come up with a way to print residential homes cheaply without sacrificing the ability to customize. After nearly three years of work and collaboration with other tech companies, they are ready to go.
Printing Less, Not More
Branch Technology is by no means the first company to pursue 3D printing with composite materials. There are scores of other companies actively working on bringing down the price of composite materials, like carbon fiber, by figuring out better ways to print them. What makes this particular project so unique is the philosophy of printing less rather than more.
Rock West Solutions, a Salt Lake City company that specializes in composite materials and fabricating, explains that the typical 3D printing project focuses on scale. In other words, how large a composite piece can we print? How big can we get printers and print heads?
Branch Technology thinks in opposite terms. They are attempting to print as little as possible without compromising structural integrity. Their future home is a testament to that philosophy. Rather than printing entire sections of the house to be assembled on site, they plan to print just two kinds of structures for the home.
First is a composite frame around which the house will be built, which will consist of multiple pieces of lattice work. On top of the lattice work will be 3D-printed panels made of carbon fiber. They will make up the outer shell of the house. Inside, contractors will be able to use standard building materials, like drywall for example, to divide rooms and add further structural rigidity.
Benefits of 3D Printing
Attempting to 3D-print a residential home might seem odd given what can be done with robotic layups these days. But there are definite benefits to 3D printing. First and foremost is customization. The level of customization 3D printing affords simply cannot be matched by traditional layups.
3D printing allows manufacturers to create shapes that are impossible in any other way. Those shapes can be manufactured as single-piece units.
Another benefit of 3D printing is cost. Because there is very little labor involved, 3D printing doesn’t cost nearly as much as manual layups. 3D printing also uses a curing process that doesn’t require energy-hungry autoclaves. This suggests additional cost reductions by way of energy savings.
A Big Step Forward
No one is certain if the 3D-printed house will actually turn out as planned. Branch Technology has been planning and testing for years. Though they believe they are ready for a full-scale model, there are no guarantees of success. So this will be a big step forward if they can actually pull it off.
Successfully building a new house via 3D printing could mean big things for architecture in the future. It could pave the way for many of the space-age architectural designs we have only seen in films and on television. It could also mean an end to erecting buildings out of wood and steel. Wouldn’t that be an interesting change?