The Art + Science Behind 3D Printed Houses

Written by Lauren

Imagine a world in which breaking ground on a new house would simply require pushing “print.” This reality is technically available today, thanks to 3D printing. While the 3D printer has made its mark on the manufacturing industry, creative 3D printing startups and companies have shifted their focus to a larger market: building.

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The homes and structures are certainly more of the “tiny” variety than a large estate, but these buildings illustrate the potential for the future of architectural development. Read on to learn more about how 3D printed houses are made, the benefits of these projects and see some of the latest designs coming out of 3D printing architecture.

Why 3D Print a House, Anyway?

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There are countless advantages to 3D printing construction. One of the biggest examples is reduced costs–one printing firm recently constructed and completed the construction of a 400-square-foot home for just over $10,000 (the yellow house, shown above). This home was also erected in a mere 24 hours, a second upside of utilizing printing technology. Without need for downtime or labor crews, the machines can run and build efficiently and quickly, resulting in developments literally coming up overnight.

In an analysis completed by the company, traditional construction would have cost up to 70% more than the 3D printed house cost. Apis Cor, the company that erected the $10K, 24-hour home, suggests that the best is yet to come with home building. Future plans include larger scale houses and buildings, and even a partnership with NASA to build structures on Mars.

Sociologically, there’s a lot more to be discovered about the impact and implications of 3D printing. As major cities face affordable housing crises and home costs skyrocket, these (almost) set-it-and-forget-it printed houses offer a path toward creating sustainable, cost-effective living spaces. Cheap housing opportunities creates more options for individuals and families that might otherwise be homeless, and offers alternatives to traditional construction. In impoverished areas, these offerings could be an invaluable resource for providing shelter to those in need.

Since 3D printed houses are so innovative and novel, it’s likely that it will take some time for these methods to begin impacting real communities. Additionally, as of yet there are no legitimate 3D printed buildings in the US. Regardless, it’s a captivating thought about the future of housing.

How to Print a House

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So, how does a company actually go about creating a 3D printed house? It’s a three-part journey, from the ground up. First, a preliminary design structure is input to scan for the printer’s guidelines. Next comes the heavy machinery: a mobile 3D printer is brought onsite to print the foundation, structure, walls and roof. Working in concrete, the printer has the capacity to create freestanding walls and the foundation. Finally, workers come onsite to help with the finishing touches like painting, installing insulation and attaching the printed roof. While human intervention is a necessity to construct a liveable space, their time on the job site is significantly decreased and offers them safer projects than typical construction jobs.

The Form and Function of 3D Printed Houses

While Apis Cor’s quick building skills have gotten them lots of recognition, other design firms have also been working with 3D printing structures as well, for quite a few years. Although none were constructed in 24 hours, these projects showcase the design potential of 3D printing that goes well beyond the basics.

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This Dutch “urban cabin” was designed by firm DUS architects. Like the previous project, it’s not exactly a grand home. But its geometric design and multifunctionality make it an intriguing alternative to the typical “tiny house.”

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Another Dutch design, this seeming impossibility of a structure was inspired by a Mobius strip. Not exactly a traditional living space, Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars and firm D-Shape conceptualized and constructed  the “Landscape House,” as they call it, to explore the full potential of 3D printed buildings.

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Don’t let the Flintstones-style curves of this building fool you. This office would be much more suitable for the Jetsons. Designed for an organization in Dubai by Gensler, this building wasn’t constructed onsite like Apis Cor’s tiny house. Instead, parts were 3D printed and shipped to the site. Still, this space’s creative structure cost 50% less than traditional construction thanks to the thrifty nature of printing.

With seemingly unlimited possibilities for the future of 3D printing, it’s likely only a matter of time before it’s possible to press PRINT on our dream homes. In the meantime, keep an eye out for the latest news from 3D printing companies– you never know what they’ll print out next!

About the author



Lauren Walters is a freelance writer and marketer who lives in Sacramento. She loves good design, cooking, and antique stores. When she's not writing or moving her furniture around her house, you can find her out hiking Northern California's amazing trails.

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