3D printing’s impact on construction is slowly materializing.
Owning one’s own house—a dream of human beings ever since Cro-Magnons looked out of their caves at the retreating glaciers—has been sometimes more, sometimes less affordable. Currently, we’re in one of the less affordable phases. With construction accounting for almost 60 percent of the cost of a new single-family home, measures that reduce labor and simplify material needs may make the dream more accessible for many.
Cue the 3D-printing evangelists. The 2010s have been ringing with the hosannas of houses extruded from a 3D printer in hours, sometimes many of them per day. The options seem limitless, with made-to-order versions in concrete, like Icon’s tiny house in Austin; ABS plastic and carbon fiber, like Branch Technology’s prototype home in Chattanooga; and recycled materials, like Chinese manufacturer WinSun’s five-story apartment building in Suzhou. By simplifying construction, we’re told, 3D printing can provide affordable shelter to everyone from the working poor to refugees.