Michelle Reed

News

Mon, 29 Jun, 2015

Australians may soon be living in 3D printed houses

Australians may soon be living in 3D printed houses

New technology means the idea of Australians living in a 3D printed house is now a reality.

Dr Hank Haeusler, senior architecture lecturer at the University of NSW, said that technically speaking the idea of building a 3D printed house was possible. The key, he says, was to find the right client, developer and builders to construct it.

“I think it is definitely going to happen ... I think in five to 10 years we will see more and more 3D printed housing construction and nodes,” Dr Haeusler told news.com.au.

Dr Haeusler said that researchers at RMIT in Melbourne had already developed a 3D printed structural node that could connect building parts together. Already, 3D printing is being used to manufacture cars and planes.

While it is still in an experimental stage of development, the capabilities of the 3D printers have been proven. It’s now a race for the architects to perfect the technique.

Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, a researcher from the University of Southern California has been developing the technology for more than 10 years. It is his goal to be able to build a house from scratch in less than 24 hours.

“Our goal,” he told The Age in 2003, “is to be able to completely construct a one-storey 185-square-metre home on site in one day, without using human hands.”

He would like to create a huge printer that could print a whole house in a single run.

When speaking to news.com.au, Prof Khoshnevis said that entry level 3D printing machines for buildings would be offered for sale within the next couple of years but extensive testing was required before they could get the technology certified.

“One should realise that initially 3D printing can build the basic shell of the building. There is much more that goes into a house,” Prof Khoshnevis said.

3D printing could make building a traditional home around 10 per cent cheaper too, he said. But for simple houses, such as low income or emergency accommodation, the savings could be significant.

In 2014 in China, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering company showed its capabilities by printing 10 houses in 24 hours using what it described as the world’s biggest 3D printers.

The cost of these simple one room houses was just $AU6494 each. The company has also built a much larger structure which it calls the “world’s tallest 3D printed building”, as well as a 3D printed mansion which cost around $AU209,111.

Prof Khoshnevis and Dr Haeusler both agree that architectural flexibility was one of the unique advantages of printing 3D houses.

“Time will tell if 3D printing really will be cheaper but it will definitely be possible to design and build complex shapes,” Dr Haeusler said.

If the well known architect Jorn Utzon was trying to build the Sydney Opera House in this day and age, Dr Haeusler said he would be looking at using 3D technology.

While 3D printed homes could be a cheaper option as labour costs go up, they still use traditional building materials such as concrete, said Dr Haeusler.

“I think for the bog standard Australian suburban house, I wouldn’t see any point in 3D printing because you can easily go and buy design components such as bricks easily from stores such as Bunnings. But if you want to design and build a house like the Opera House where you couldn't get the components, then 3D printing becomes an advantage.”

“At the moment it wouldn’t make a contribution to affordable housing because technology has not got to the stage yet where it could be used for mass commercial production.”

Image Source: Contour Crafting

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