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3-D Printing the American Dream

Robert Ottone
Apr 28, 2014

3-D printers are amazing tools. They have been used for making smaller niche items like key chains, jewelry and statues, as well as larger items like cell phone cases or mechanical parts, and even been used to create weaponry. Once thought to be a high-end luxury, these tools are growing in popularity and some higher-end consumer models can be had in the $2,500 range. A China-based company is revolutionizing the 3-D printer game by using their systems to spray a blend of reclaimed construction materials and cement into a livable structure. The firm, WinSun, highlighted the lack of manual laborers and their use of leftover construction pieces as a way to keep costs down. As a result, each home costs roughly $5,000 (American) to build. Gawker broke down that WinSun uses four 3-D printers to construct each home, with each printer being 32 feet by 21 feet. "We can print buildings to any digital design our customers bring us. It's fast and cheap," said WinSun Chief Executive Ma Yihe. As of right now, Chinese regulations do not allow for multi-storey home production, though Yihe hopes to one day be able to construct skyscrapers via 3-D printers. Layer by layer, homes can go up relatively quickly, though, which is meeting the increased demand for cheap, affordable living in China. WinSun was able to create 10 homes in one day using the process, all for under a fraction the cost of a normal American home. Recent developments in 3-D printing has also allowed individuals to create beds, couches and other pieces of furniture as well to furnish the new homes. While not the most attractive homes ever seen, the structures by WinSun are affordable and look ready to move into immediately. One of the more fascinating aspects of 3-D printing is its lessened impact on the environment, as well. As highlighted by Tech Republic, there are fewer waste materials, less transport and less wasted materials, thus lessening the carbon footprint on the nation. Also, should a piece of the home break down or become damaged in some way, a printer could, quite literally, spit a new piece out relatively quickly and make the repair immediately. The following video provides a simple computer-generated breakdown of how a two-story house could be generated by a 3-D printer: The possibilities of 3-D printing are endless. The days of exorbitant home prices could be at an end through the use of 3-D printers. Homes that cost a quarter million dollars could suddenly cost around ten thousand. What’s the rate on a 30-year mortgage as it pertains to a $10,000 3-D printed home? This technology has the potential to shake the housing industry to its foundations (pun totally intended). While the argument could be made that this will negatively impact the economy (less need for manual labor), at the end of the day, a majority of home production is often performed by unlicensed and undocumented workers who do not pay taxes on the wages they earn, and oftentimes do not reinvest in the infrastructure of America and the growth of the U. S. economy.  With this new method of homebuilding very young in its infancy, but as it grows, does it have the power to sustain over the tried and true methods of homebuilding? Only time will tell before that plot of land or open space is inhabited by a crew not laboring feverishly with brick and mortar and hammer and nail, but operating the 3-D machinery responsible for a habitable structure. Just think, the American dream of homeownership ... at the click of a mouse.  
Published
Apr 28, 2014
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