January 26, 2023

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's ... House?!

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Would you live in a house made of recycled plastic water bottles? A Los-Angeles based tech start up is trying to make that a reality by using three-dimensional ("3D") printing technology. Azure Printed Homes wants to change the construction industry using 3D printing technology and harnessing the power of recycled plastic to prefabricate backyard studios, offices, and homes 70% faster and 20-30% less expensive than existing construction methods.

A few years back, the idea of 3D printed homes sounded like a futuristic concept. We can now comfortably say that we're living in the future. While the idea of 3D printed houses has been around for some time, only recently have various construction companies brought these ideas to life. So how does it work? 3D printed homes are built by depositing heated construction material through a nozzle mounted on a huge steel framework. The nozzle releases a concrete mixture in the form of paste to create walls from the ground up layer by layer. A concrete dryer allows for the building material to solidify quickly, and then another layer is added. Then another layer and another layer until complete.

Most 3D printing home builders currently use a form of concrete to create their homes, whether it be a proprietary mix or pure concrete. But companies like Azure Printed Homes are looking to take a more sustainable approach. 60% of Azure Printed Home's material will use waterproof plastic polymer which is often found in plastic bottles and packaging for food. According to the startup, each unit can be made using up to 100,000 recycled water bottles and it only takes 24 hours to print. These kind of 3D printed houses could have numerous positive impacts on the environment including lowering emissions. Since 3D print technology requires limited equipment, less transportation and less building time it can significantly reduce carbon output.

In addition to its sustainability impact, 3D printing could be a potential solution for the growing affordable housing crisis in America. According to a March 2020 report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, extremely low-income renters, households with incomes at or below the poverty level or 30 percent of the area median income, face a housing shortage of 7 million available and affordable rental homes. Organizations like Habitat for Humanity are hoping 3D printing could help alleviate the increased demand for low-cost housing. Habitat for Humanity built its first 3D printed house in Williamsburg, Virginia late last year. The 1,200-square-foot home consists of 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and was constructed in just 28 hours using a 3D printer. April Stringfield, a single mother balancing three jobs never dreamt owning a home would be her reality but with 3D printing it has been. Stringfield applied for the help of Habitat for Humanity to purchase a home for her and her 13-year-old son. Habitat for Humanity and Alquist 3D joined together to create these 3D homes, and their mission is to ensure every person has a safe and affordable place to live. They have made it more accessible for individuals like Stringfield to purchase a home.

3D printing is not just taking over America, but similar types of houses are popping up across the world-- in Japan, Canada, Africa, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. NASA has even signed a $57.2 million agreement with an Austin based construction company to build structures on the moon. The ultimate goal is to build a structure that astronauts can live and work in.

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