Most of us know 3D printers as those microwave-size vessels that spit out material into the shape of whatever doodad, trinket, or tool a designer's programmed via special software. And, yes, there are plenty of 3D printers that specialize in doing just that, but the technology has evolved to an incredible extent. At this point there are actually 3D printers large and sophisticated enough to print entire houses in 24 hours, as demonstrated in this video.
The home featured here is the handiwork of the Russian company Apis Cor, which has engineered an innovative long-armed mobile 3D printer specifically for building homes. It operates a bit like the huge robots auto manufacturers use in their assembly plants, except rather than connect large metal components with one another, it essentially paints layers of concrete into the shape and form of whatever structure has been programmed, without having to later connect various sections together. Incredibly, this oddly-shaped abode was erected entirely as one piece.
All it needs to run is a hook-up to a tank of whatever viscous material you want to fashion the house from -- in this case cement -- then you let 'er rip and wait for it to finish the job. Of course, there are crucial elements like a roof and windows that must be installed by hand once the printer's done, but you've got to hand it to this rig for getting the bulk of the work wrapped in under a day.
Beyond its ability to conjure a house in a matter of hours, 3D printing is also incredibly cost-effective. For instance, the modest digs featured in this video cost a little over $10,000, or roughly $232 per meter (for reference, the average cost of building your home in the US is $150 per square foot, which converts to $480 per meter).
It's not clear when or if this burgeoning construction method will make its way stateside, or how prevalent it will become, but there's no arguing that it has enormous implications for affordable housing options, and could dramatically improve the ability to rebuild residential regions ravaged by disaster.
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