3D Printing Houses

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3D Printing Houses

Fama3D is a company operating in the professional 3D printing sector. It uses special equipment to realise 3D prints on commission starting from an STL project. Its staff, made up of specialised collaborators, has over a hundred years of experience in precision mechanics. It is a division of Fantinelli Srl.

The company currently produces 3D prints using different technologies, sometimes combined, such as MJF (Multi Jet Fusion), SLA (Resin Printers), and LPBF Metal (Metal Printers). The passion for innovation constantly drives the company to search for new fields of application by developing new printing methods. In recent years, the possibility of realising houses with 3D printing has been gaining ground.

3D printing of houses is a technology that can offer many advantages regarding construction time and environmental sustainability. A robotic arm working non-stop can complete the construction of a load-bearing structure in just 18 hours, as demonstrated by building the walls of a school in Malawi.

scuola malawi stampa 3d

The 3D-printed surfaces require no further machining to create the ducts used by the pipes and systems. This construction method is also sustainable as it saves on using materials such as liquid cement, which hardens quickly when laid in precise layers. This allows construction time and costs to be controlled without any surprises.

3D printing houses can solve the housing shortage problem in some parts of the world, allowing affordable housing to be built without impacting the environment. At the moment, it represents an opportunity for professionals such as engineers, architects, and other specialists to gain practical and specific knowledge about increasingly alternative methods, thus opening the way to new possibilities.

Some 3D-printed house projects in Italy have their roots in 2018. In that year, the first 3D-printed earth houses were realised. At that time, tiny houses of only 20 square metres were created, which did not require heating or air conditioning. They relied on the thermal mass of the materials to keep the interior temperature consistently comfortable in both summer and winter. The walls were also efficient from a bioclimatic point of view and contributed to a healthy indoor environment. Soon, they began constructing composite dwelling units of two round rooms surmounted by a beehive-shaped dome. It must be remembered, however, that these housing units at the time were printed using earth, which raised an environmental dilemma to consider in using this material in 3D printing houses. While printing houses using materials such as mortar without problems was already possible, using earth as a structural base could cause disasters in heavy rainfall.

The first 3D-printed single-family house

The continuous search for methods and materials to improve 3D printing technology in construction led to the development of technologies that would break down the engineering barriers raised by the young age of this emerging sector. Thus, in 2021, the first 3D-printed single-family house was completed in Germany (in Eindhoven). Its load-bearing structure was entirely made of concrete. Italy also played an essential role in this project. In cooperation with Italcementi, a concrete for 3D printing called i.tech 3D was developed, which could be applied without moulds. For the 3D printing process to work, the two-centimetre-high layers of concrete extruded by the printer needed to be strong enough to hold each other and moist enough to allow chemical bonding.

Experts from the Technical University of Munich and the engineering firm Schiessl Gehlen Sodeikat supervised the project.

This significant breakthrough in the use of concrete opened up new scenarios for using 3D printing in the construction industry.

Indeed, it is now possible to build entire housing structures, including whole apartment blocks or residences, as Beckum’s house demonstrates. Its 160 square metres on two floors make it the ‘largest 3D-printed house in Europe’.

Although innovative methods are still being used to renew established construction methods in housing construction, traditional construction, with its age-old techniques, continues to play the leading role in flat construction. As one can easily imagine, considerable and imposing machines are required to print a house, capable of mixing, extruding and modelling the load-bearing structures of a flat. This is where traditional construction techniques, such as factory building of the individual spaces that make up a house, lend themselves to 3D printing of houses. Using this technique, it is possible to build the entire housing structure step by step, piece by piece, avoiding the customised construction of the enormous 3D printer on the building site. Moreover, this technique allows immediate repair of printer malfunctions, such as extruder blockages or motor failures, as specialised on-site personnel constantly monitor and supervise them.

Having examined the use of 3D printers in the construction industry, particularly housing, we must shift our attention to the other potential sectors in which this creation method is rapidly expanding: furniture making.

Furniture and home furnishing with 3D printing

Just like the construction of houses, 3D-printing furniture allows for savings on materials, reduced lead times, and the unique realisation of the pieces produced. Many furniture designers are increasingly relying on companies specialising in contract manufacturing to create unique, limited pieces or for private collections. Some of the most sought-after creations are armchairs or coffee tables.

As these objects are not too large, they can be produced using more traditional printing techniques such as FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling). Attractive design benches, vases with sophisticated shapes or tables with special sizes are just a few examples of what can be realised with the 3D printing technique. One of the somewhat underrated aspects of 3D printing for furniture components is to consider the production of the finished objects. On the one hand, this kind of approach gives the printing technique a fascination all of its own, but on the other hand, it conceals an equally important one. Thinking of a technology that creates something out of nothing with a click of a button is fascinating.

It is wrong only to consider creating a 3D-printed piece of furniture, excluding a priori the possibility of creating something more sophisticated. By grasping this detail, many designers have created unique combinations of 3D technology and excellent craftsmanship. Using time-plastic materials guarantees the creation of quite robust furniture and accessories, which have nothing to envy to traditional materials such as wood and iron. All are enhanced by the possibility of choosing their weight, colour and shape.

The characteristics of the materials currently on the market for furniture components, with the help of a 3D printer, are interesting enough to compare with those of the most traditionally used materials. Although with a plastic core, these materials are used individually or bonded with other materials to improve their physical and structural characteristics.

The primary materials are used as a basis for composite materials.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is a plastic used in various applications, including food and beverage packaging, bottles for transporting liquids, and more. It is also a popular material for 3D printing because it is easy to print and offers good print quality. Moreover, it is durable for various mechanical applications, such as car parts, furniture, and appliance components.

PLA (PolyAlyl Lactic Acid) is a biodegradable thermoplastic material. It is obtained from renewable sources, such as maise, sugar cane or wheat, and is often considered a more environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-derived plastics. PLA has a low melting temperature, which makes it easy to print with 3D printers. When printed, it also has good wear resistance and a smooth, shiny surface.

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a durable, lightweight, and easily machined plastic used in various applications, such as toys, furniture, car parts, and appliance parts. ABS is a popular 3D printing material because it is easy to print and offers good print quality.

Polypropylene (PP) is a thermoplastic material commonly used to produce packaging, non-woven fabrics, bottles for transporting liquids and other products. It is a lightweight, durable, quickly processed plastic with good chemical and wear resistance. Polypropylene is also suitable for 3D printing, although it is not as commonly used as PLA or ABS. It has a low melting temperature, which makes it easy to print with 3D printers. It possesses considerable cohesive power and a low melting temperature. It also has low thermal resistance and can deform at high temperatures.

Metals, carbon fibres and wood are just some of the materials with which these elements are bonded.

Over the years, several makers, driven by the excellent intrinsic properties of printing materials, have focused their attention and concentrated their efforts on designing and building 3D printers, which, through large-scale printing, would enable them to realise certain parts of their homes.

These parts once moved within the flat surfaces of their flats, allowing them to change their homes’ floor plans. The makers could then print walls, which were positioned at will. Although this technique is not yet fully sponsored and used in modern construction, it does allow, with the help of 3D printing, the creation of parts to complete home interiors.

The considered choice of material to be used to realise objects makes it possible to create almost anything present in any home nowadays. The ability to create your home from the supporting structure, customise its interior by designing and making furniture or walls, and choose its shape and colour opens up countless scenarios applied in 3D printing and the realisation of living spaces.

There are still too many dark spots to be illuminated for 3D printing of houses. One of the main ones is the absence of a history that conveys knowledge about the obsolescence of the materials used, which makes it difficult to choose suitable materials for printing buildings. Many materials currently used for 3D printing houses are still relatively expensive and may not be ideal for large buildings. Furthermore, there is still little understanding of their ability to withstand weathering and natural events. Another problem is the limited availability of printing technologies for large buildings.

Undoubtedly, this kind of architectural construction faces daunting challenges today and will face shortly before it can be used on a large scale. But thanks to continuous technological innovation, the dedication of current and future researchers, and the challenges that climate change presents us with daily, the use of 3D printing of houses will bring enormous benefits in realising both civil and industrial buildings.

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