Story at a glance
- The United States is facing a housing crisis leading to heightened home prices, overcrowding and homelessness.
- Startups such as Mighty Buildings and ICON want to use 3D-printing to address the issue.
- 3D printers can be used to create three-dimensional objects and have been used to create smaller-scale units.
Startups want to tackle the housing crisis with a new approach — 3D-printing.
3D-printing uses industrial machines to produce and place layers of materials such as concrete or metal on top of each other to create a three-dimensional object, automating production.
Most 3D printers have been utilized to produce smaller-scale items such as car parts. However, a number of startups, such as Mighty Buildings and ICON, want to use the technology to break into the construction industry.
The companies state the technology can be applied to constructing sustainable houses, both faster and at a cheaper cost to help combat the housing crisis. In the United States, housing shortages have caused homelessness, overcrowding in menial conditions and rising home prices.
In Oakland, Calif., Mighty Buildings uses a 3D printer to create layers of a stone-like deposit that is then hardened under an ultraviolet light. The material is both fire and water resistant. The walls are then printed layer by layer and filled with an insulation foam, then robotic arms are used to give the surfaces designs.
The company is currently producing 350-square-foot studios for backyards that can be utilized as extra bedrooms, gyms, or offices. Mighty Buildings has created six of these units and has been contracted for another 30. Each unit starts at a cost of $115,000, not including installation.
These 3D-printed dwellings are also said to have an environmentally friendly impact, as the production process reduces the potential waste of materials, such as extra quantities of wood and metal that would otherwise end up in landfills.
“With 3D printing, we’re able to print exactly what we need,” Sam Ruben, the co-founder and chief sustainability officer of Mighty Buildings, told The Associated Press.
However, 3D-printed housing is still a relatively new concept, and it’s still being developed. A majority of startups in 3D home construction have only begun creating the technology and not yet created actual homes. Even Mighty Buildings and ICON have only fully created fewer than 100 houses combined.
The early stages of technological development is only a piece of the puzzle, as workers need to be trained to operate the 3D machinery and production streamlined. There are also a number of people, including prospective home buyers and housing regulators, who must be convinced of the homes’ safety and aesthetic, as well.
Michelle Boyd, who directs the Housing Lab at the University of California, said to make a true impact on the housing crisis, a number of approaches and solutions need to be explored, including zoning and construction, but still stated 3D printing could help in addressing the issue.
“To the extent that 3D printing can offer a faster, cheaper way to build even single family housing units or small units,” said Boyd, “it can address a portion of the problem.”
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