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Last updated: August 13, 2021 • Home Improvement

3D Printed Homes and the Future of Real Estate

When Barack Obama said at the 2013 State of the Union that 3D Printers had the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything, it seemed like it was just political hyperbole, but now, more than 8 years later, one of the ways that prove this theory was fair is the advent of 3D Printers to real estate via 3D Printed Homes.

Yes, 3D printing technologies have moved to real estate and we can now print a home. And in a matter of hours! For less than half the price!

The next (r)evolutionary step in building houses

concrete mixer truck the side of industrial 3d printer

Construction 3D printing (C3DP) or 3D Construction Printing (3DCP) is a real estate trend reality. Not only 3D printed homes, but full-size 3D buildings have been built via 3D printing technologies. These gigantic 3D printers – Win Sun, a Chinese maker, has one machine of 150 meters long! – typically used as “ink” cement and glass fiber, but more and more they will likely push for more ecological materials. Tests have already been made printing materials recycled from construction waste and industrial waste through special handling, processing, and separation technology, which will make the method even more affordable.

If there’s one downside to 3D Construction so far is that the printers do not print plumbing, windows, and wall insulation; it only deals with the outer structure. And that, most of the time, also excludes the roof. So you have to bring contractors anyway to come in and install them after the structure is done. But still; it’s not like that’s a big deal. You are still saving a lot of money and time, and it won’t be long for the scientists to come up with solutions to those obstacles. It’s quite possible someone’s already working around the plumbing issue, making it possible for printers to accumulate more than one type of “ink” and interchange between it so it can also print the pipes inside the walls etc.

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Taking preventive measures before implementing in practice

3d printer walls building house

But you must be thinking: if that’s all true, how come I’ve never seen 3D Printed Homes around?

Well, with every major shift, the whole system needs time to adjust. As it should. It needs time to evaluate how to welcome innovation without disrupting the whole system at once, putting millions out of work in the process. And, especially in real estate, it needs time to evaluate the safety of this innovation. After all, we are talking about the housing of people; we can’t just start printing 3D printed homes and, then, 2 years later, find out the construction is not firm enough and thousands of people are in danger or, at least, in need of a recall. And we don’t mean the house will crack with excessive wear. But how will it deal with fire, floods, and other heavy “Acts of God”? Since printing 3D homes is so fast, people would build and then, with the hurricane season coming, learn the hard way their house wasn’t sturdy enough. So, it will take some time for the organizations to adapt (or even create) the necessary 3D printing building code and regulations with the government in order to make sure everything is being built safely.

However, you will, pretty soon, start to see more and more about 3D printing technologies everywhere you look in Real Estate.

3-D mock-ups to foreshadow the future of housing

3d rendering of a modern cozy house

In the tiniest of the spheres, as the technology cheapens, you will have real estate agents using 3D printers for marketing purposes: why not print a keychain with their logos to gift their clients, or, even better, a tiny model of the house once the clients close the deal? Still in the minor league, but a bit less trivial, we can already find several real estate developers – especially in commercial real estate – using 3D printing technologies as a sales ploy to lure buyers in. They do that by printing a big model of the area/building/retail complex they are developing in a way clients can actually see and feel its dimensions and proposals of style. It’s a big improvement when you have it in front of you rather than only seeing it on a computer screen.

Then, moving on to the construction itself, we’ll start to see not only the printing of prefabricated parts to be assembled in traditional construction but also 3D printing technologies in ancillary buildings. Tiny Homes, She Sheds, guest houses, or even dog houses will serve as great launching pads for the more audacious construction. Cost-wise, since Tiny Homes and She Sheds are already pretty cheap, it seems it will be a neck to neck race between conventional construction methods and 3D building, but, if time is money, then printing Tiny Homes and She Sheds will definitely be less time consuming than traditional construction, thus less expensive.

To the rescue of homeless people in poverty-stricken areas

homeless man

Eventually, 3D Building will move on to the big league and we’ll see large-scale 3D housing construction in America. That’s not to say that the Construction 3D printing industry is sitting and waiting. There have been important initiatives in underdeveloped third world countries like Haiti and El Salvador, which aim to build 3D printed homes for homeless people. The land is not a problem there and only a technology so fast could make a substantial difference before getting caught by all that political game that cancels good initiatives like that – technicians predict they can print about 10 640 square feet houses a day with a total building cost of $4,000 per home; which means that it would take only $14 million for approximately 10,000 people to have a roof over their head in less than a year.

Plus, it’s a known fact that weather conditions can slow down a conventional construction project. With 3D printing that’s not a problem. All you need is a tent and you will be able to build under snow and rain.

The colonization of planets has just become more accessible

What’s more amazing is that those are viable possibilities that we, mere real estate professionals can envision, but the sky’s the limit for 3D printed homes. Or not even; NASA scientists have been working together with 3D printing engineers because they believe 3D printing technologies are the only viable way if we are to colonize the moon. Imagine the crazy logistics to build something the conventional way on the moon (or Mars, whenever we can send human beings there): we would need to train astronauts to become contractors – or worse; train contractors to become astronauts! And how would we send the materials and big power tools? And how long would it take to finalize construction with the reduced manpower and working conditions in no-gravity zones? Years? Decades? It is bound for failure. But if they can figure out the perfect 3D Printer to endure those adversities and build a perfect 3D Printed Home for men to live on another planet, then this “dream” gets much more close to becoming reality.

Those are just some things we can foresee; once it’s set in motion, you start to come across new possibilities and develop from that; that’s the basis of the scientific process. What matters for now is that there is no doubt that 3D Printed Homes are, if not the future of real estate, in the future of real estate.

The early short history of 3D printed technology

interested multiethnic scientist gathering around 3d printer

The roots of 3D printing technology, or referred to as additive manufacturing, can be traced back to the Japanese inventor, Hideo Kodama. The baby steps originated from 1981 when Mr. Kodama came up with a gadget that involved ultraviolet lights in hardening polymers and creating solid objects. It was called the “desktop 3D printers” since it is the most generally used form of technology. The term “3D printing” now covers a diversified range of processes in which material is amassed, joined, or hardened under computer control to create a three-dimensional object.

Charles W. Hull created the first 3D printer using the stereolithography technique, in the mid-1980s. Basically, he hit a vat of liquid photopolymer with a UV laser beam. Then the light-exposed piece will immediately turn into a sturdy piece of plastic, forged into the shape of a 3D-model design.

In 1993, Sanders Prototype, Inc. an inkjet 3D printer company, was founded. Later, it was renamed Solidscape, announcing a high-precision polymer jet fabrication system with soluble support structures (categorized as a “dot-on-dot” technique).

In 1995 the Fraunhofer Society introduced the selective laser melting process.

Predictions for the future based on the present condition of the technology

3d rendering of a house architectural landscape

The term “3D printed house” is becoming more and more well-known and widely used around the globe in 2021. People are starting to realize the endless potential the technology has regarding financial savings, eco-friendliness, and swift delivery of the final product.

And how about its price? As with every new and exciting technology that is continuously developed, the price tends to go down. As there are already many companies (such as Apis Cor, Icon, Winsun, Gaia, etc.) pursuing 3-D printed buildings one can not establish a fixed price. The absolutely positive news is that the price of the cheapest 3-D created home can be as low as $4,000. Logically, the dimensions of the building and its complexity set the cost. The price mentioned above covers the expenses for the house’s structure (base, walls, roof) and in some cases, wiring.

In time, analysts predict that more construction companies will move towards the building of 3D-printed objects. This should bring prices down and quality up.

8 things you didn’t know about 3D printed technology

metal chocolate machine draws 3d chocolate

The term is a misnomer. It does not function as a printer but as an “additive manufacturer”. Its functioning resembles a ‘replicator’ creating amazingly complex and authentic three-dimensional articles by diffusing materials in consecutive coatings through special nozzles.

  • 3-D printing started with lasers. As we mentioned before, in the 1980s, computers traced a pattern, which was later submerged in a liquid polymer. The traced pattern adjusted into a layer, due to the laser, and that was how you built an object out of plastic. 
  • Modern 3-D printing technology functions like your inkjet. A 3-D printer reconstructs an article out of matter that is pressed from a mechanical head. In some ways, it resembles your regular inkjet replicating text on a page by forcing out ink onto paper.
  • You could print chocolate! Besides the usual raw materials, such as concrete, synthetic stone, ceramics, new ones are tested, and yes chocolate, and cheese are amongst them! Other food items are already in the testing phase, for instance, scallops, cookies, and burritos.
  • Less waste in production. On an old-school construction site, workers would drill, cut, and file away from the source raw material until they obtained the desired object. However, at the end of this creating process, they remained with many leftovers and scrap materials. Now, with 3-D printing technology, they use only the necessary amount to create something.  
  • NASA is dispatching a 3-D printer to the International Space Station so its team can build spare parts.
  • A plastic, single-shot pistol made on a 3-D printer called the Liberator gets past metal detectors.
  • Substitute jawbones and hips are among the medical uses of 3-D printing.

The future is just around the corner

confident businessman looking to success

Cheaper and better quality. As you can see, 3-D printers are no longer just a mere idealistic concept taken over from sci-fi films. The truth is that the current zeitgeist is fixated on not technological baby steps but snow leopard type of leaps. There is progress made literally on a daily basis we, ordinary laymen, can not comprehend. 3-D printer technology is present virtually in every domain. Sooner or later, everything can be reproduced with this artificial method: food industry, aeronautics, medical equipment, and replacement of limbs, construction, etc. 

Scientists will integrate 3D printing technology with smart technologies, such as sensors and machine learning. Consequently, they will enhance repeatability, an essential concept for a machine, based on the learning process to reproduce things successfully. At the same time, it cuts down the risk of build failures. According to analysts, in ten years, the technology from hardware to software will be ready for production.


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