There have been 3D-printed cars, 3D-printed guns and even talk of 3D-printed bladders.
Now, scientists working in the French city of Nantes have taken things one step further - unveiling what is being billed as the world’s first 3D-printed home.
The five-room, 95-square-metre property will house a local family qualifying for social assistance from June. And authorities there say they are now considering the feasibility of developing an entire district of such homes.
“Is this the future?” asked Benoit Furet, a University of Nantes professor who worked on the year-long project.
“It's a solution and a constructive principle that is interesting because we create the house directly on site and, in addition, we are able to create walls with complex shapes.”
While this is not the first building to have been created using printing technology, those behind the scheme - including academics, engineers and manufacturers - say it will be the first to be permanently habituated. And they say that, if scaled up, the process could be used to build energy efficient homes quicker and cheaper than current techniques allow.
A specially created machine named BatiPrint3D took just 18 days to complete the initial shell of the property using a polymer material. Concrete was then filled into hollow walls for insulation.
The project - called Yhnova - also saw the Y-shaped home equipped with multiple sensors to monitor air quality, humidity and temperature, as well as systems to evaluate the thermal properties of the building. This should enable tenants to save on energy costs, designers reckon.
Nantes Métropole, the city authority, says it is now launching a feasibility study into the possibility of printing out a complete suburban housing estate with homes in different shapes and sizes, as well as a 350-square-meter public reception centre.
The unveiling came just weeks after the Shanghai company Polymaker announced its LSEV car – a small electric vehicle that can reach 43 mph – was to become the first in the world mass produced using 3D printing technology.
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