Konrad Malik, 3D printing has come a long way, but can it be the solution to the world’s housing problems?

Attendees at a 3D printing technology convention

When additive-manufacturing technology came on the scene in the 1980s, it was seen in industrialist circles as a passing fad with no real potential on a mass scale. But then the terms, materials and technology itself, like any other technology, evolved.

Today the potential around additive-manufacturing is seemingly limitless, far exceeding what even the most ardent of naysayers could have dismissed 20 or 30 years ago. From bio-medical applications to parts for cars and airplanes, it’s now considered a serious manufacturing innovation across a wide array of industries.

In fact, modern 3D printers are able to manufacture various forms of shelter. With achievements in building a foam-form structure in less than 24 hours to building concrete walls that can last 175 years, and others able to withstand hurricanes, the potential for some of the world’s housing problems to be resolved in an economical manner could be close, according to scientists and engineers.

Today, hundreds of companies and governments are pouring large amounts of money into the technology’s specialized home-building sector.

Case in point, a company known as Cazza Construction Technologies in the United Arab Emirates run by and co-founded by American-born Chris Kelsey, who dropped out of high school at 17, announced in March Cazza’s plans to build the world’s first skyscraper from the technology in Dubai, a city known for architectural feats. The city’s government has already set an ambitious goal to have 25 percent of materials in the construction of its buildings come from 3D printing technology, beginning in 2019 with 2 percent and increasing every year from there.

The municipal government of Dubai is set to employ a ‘3D Printing Strategy’ in three major sectors: construction, medical products and consumer products. This plan may be the benchmark standard in the world for the use of the technology in urban construction.

Given advances like these and confidence around applying 3D technology to the housing industry, a question can be asked: namely, what additional innovative advances can we look forward to?
Could Mars be on the horizon?

One company wants to build 3D printed homes on Mars. Professor Sudipta Seal from the University of Central Florida has been recruited by NASA to find a way to build structures on the red planet for future researchers. (There is already an American-made 3D printer in space -- it was made in space.)

Engineers and scientists now are focusing on materials and structural design to achieve the best-quality, environmentally-sound and cost-effective architecture possible for an industry that not long ago was considered fodder for children’s fantasy.