Printing homes rather than building them still seems like something out of a science fiction novel, but it might soon become reality. Earlier this year, a Chinese company successfully printed 10 houses in a single day, and now the UK-based Loughborough University signed a deal with the construction company Skanska and architecture firm Foster + Partners, agreeing to help develop and commercialize 3D concrete printing. In other words, your dream home could simply be printed out in a few years.
For the last seven years, Loughborough’s University researchers have been developing 3D concrete printing technology with the aim of commercialization. They came up with a system that is made up of a gantry and robotic arm, which they are still perfecting. This device uses very exact computer control to extrude cement-based mortar into layers and create building components that can then be joined together into a larger structure.
The researchers are certain that this technology already allows for the building of complex structures that would prove a challenge for traditional construction. In fact, their 3D concrete printer could potentially print whole sections of a building with all the electrical and plumbing spaces already in place. This would cut down on the building time considerably, even when the project is a large, multi story structure. Especially since with this 3D printing technology it could be done in mere hours, according to the researchers.
The partnership will presumably yield a faster commercialization of the technology. It would also be nice to see concrete replaced by a more sustainable material, which would truly reduce the carbon footprint of this type of construction. It is also nice to see this technology finding its way out of the lab and into the real world. Hopefully there will be an actual building project to report on from this promising partnership soon.