The 3D-printing hype has been ongoing for the last couple of years. We can now print impressive food creations as well as complex medical implants, so what about scaling things up a notch and use the technology to provide the poor people of the world with affordable housing? This scenario might be viable sooner than you may think.
We have several times already heard about 3D-printed houses, but reports generally regard houses built from 3D-printed parts. Moreover, no matter how impressive creations the printers can provide, the materials that are used in the process are often carrying with them implicit negative attributes in terms of cost and availability. However, these facts create opportunities for some go-ahead folks.
Actually, the Italian social venture WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) is currently developing a large but portable 3D-printer which prints bio-architecture houses. The solution carries with it numerous applications, since it can construct facile housing (resembling igloos to some extent) without any necessity for constructional knowledge. However that is not all, fascinatingly enough it complements the clever design by utilizing mud (!) as building material.
In many parts of the world where affordable housing shortages are a growing problem, mud remains the most affordable and widely available raw material. This is what makes the solution stand out even more, since it is produced with a quite admirable agenda. The local soil of the world’s less fortunate regions could be sifted and mixed with water, and by adding some local binding material (for instance wool or tamarind) the printer would be good to go.
According to Springwise, the portable 3D printer stands 20ft (six meters) and can be assembled on site, by two people in two hours and print structures up to 10ft (3 meters) high. For now, the company has been demonstrating their process with the scaled down version of the printer (see the attached video from the Rome Maker Faire below, which is a bit longer than the one at the top).
Again, we see a company that has been inspired by nature in creating its impressive solution. This is frequently referred to as biomimicry in popular words, and for further reference Mistbreaker recently featured another article regarding a similarly induced process titled “Tree-shaped Wind-turbines shows Biomimicry at its Best”, if you would like to check it out. Whereas that article contains a description of an energy company mimicking leaves, the startup behind the 3D-printed houses were inspired by the bio-architecture of the mud dauber wasp which builds its home entirely from mud.
As reported by ZME Science, a house can be 3D-printed in a couple of weeks for very low prices. Thanks to clay printing, it is possible to conduct real self-made production that is practical and apt for commercialization. We surely hope that this invention will find its place in the world – just imagine how NGOs could deploy them where it is necessary on our sometimes chaotic planet. In a world where poor people are continuously subjected to the disastrous forces of global warming, as well as earthquakes and tsunamis, innovations like this could actually make a powerful contribution in sheltering the victims in comparably dignified ways and provide a step in rebuilding the affected communities.