The world’s first 3D printed community: where technology and design collide

Posted in: Architecture & Interiors, Building Engineering, Construction, Municipal

small house exterior with fence around it
Photo courtesy of ICON

The use of 3D printing in markets from aerospace to construction has greatly increased over the past few years. Recently there has been a lot of news on the development of 3D printing homes in remote markets in need of safe and sustainable housing, including what will be the world’s first 3D printed community.

Scheduled for completion in Latin America next year, the community is the brainchild of several different industries coming together to create something special. The project melds several facets of our industry—design, new technology, and community betterment and engagement. This month they have finally released a progress update showing how far they have come and how it will impact the community. The project offers some important lessons we can apply to our own industry and work.

How it works

The 3D printer lays down a proprietary cement material for each face and any internal structure need in each wall. It is very similar to the process we’ve used the past few years to create scaled models made from plastic. The only parts of the homes that are not 3D-printed are the cement bases and rooftop, because the cement from the 3D printer must be fixed to a solid form, and with a rooftop, that’s not possible (yet).

New technologies are exciting, but if we want to make a real, measurable difference in our world, it is imperative to keep the needs of the communities we serve at the forefront. This project exemplifies this well: throughout the design process, the team worked with local families to understand and implement their needs. These needs range from kitchen location to overall community design, including how the roads surrounding the community should be set up. Building materials were chosen carefully so that families can eventually add on to their home without a 3D printer to continue comfortably living within the space for generations.

What does this mean for us?

Our technology is progressing at an astounding rate. Capabilities that 10 years ago would have been unimaginable are now becoming possible. Mead & Hunt has already dabbled in 3D printing capabilities, bringing projects to life before completion to better spot potential problems and allow clients to conceptualize what a finished project will look like. Furthermore, the possibilities offered by 3D printing extend beyond the housing market—and beyond buildings for that matter.

It is an exciting time, for sure. The ability to change our world has never been more attainable. However, to get the most benefit from these new technologies, we must think outside the box and apply them to our existing processes and infrastructure in new ways.

This 3D printed community is not only an indication of the vast technical possibilities to come—it also shows just how much good can be done for our communities, both locally and globally, when we embrace innovative technologies to further our ideals. Through a fusion of technology and design practices, our industry and our world can be made better.

Dan Dankert

About the Author

Dan Dankert, ARACP is Mead & Hunt’s Department Manager for CAD & BIM design supporting our clients and projects with a focus on quality, efficacy and innovation. Outside of work, Dan coaches several sports and can be found supporting the Wisconsin Badgers at several venues.

Read more posts by Dan Dankert

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