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You Might Be Able to 3-D Print Your Next House

Date:2016-05-18 Hits:307
You Might Be Able to 3-D Print Your Next House
A week long series of ideas for improving urban life.
In January of this year, a mansion rose in Shanghai. But rather than being built by cranes and construction workers, the six-story structure was 3-D-printed — assembled layer upon layer by a nozzle extruding a mush “ink” made of construction waste products like concrete, fiberglass, and sand. Fabricated by the Chinese engineering company WinSun, the 3-D-printed mansion’s facade is oddly smooth and its interiors featureless, like an empty dollhouse. But the technology that created it could before long reshape entire cities.


As large-scale 3-D printing evolves, buildings created by the process will be faster, cheaper, and more architecturally interesting than traditional structures. They can be built where they stand, and customizing a new design is as easy as altering a computer model. The process “allows us to digitally fabricate new material systems and building components with varied properties of density, translucency, elasticity, and much more,” says Areti Markopoulou, a professor at Barcelona’s Institute of Advanced Architecture. Imagine ovular windows as easily built as brick, or curved facades without the leakage problems that plague Frank Gehry.


At a moment when the world’s leaders are gathered in Paris trying to find a way to cut greenhouse emissions and avoid cooking the planet, there is another remarkable upside: A 3-D-printed building is much greener than a traditionally built one. WinSun estimates that its printed structures require 60 percent less material. “The duration of construction is not very long and people don’t drive back and forth to the work site,” says Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at USC and leading innovator in large-scale 3-D printing.