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Print Me a Porch: 3-D Printers Scaling Up

Missing that one last bolt to hold together your new IKEA dresser? Soon you won’t have to go searching for it if you can get your hands on a 3-D printer. No longer reserved for industrial professionals looking to create prototypes from their blueprints, 3-D printers are going mainstream and are available to any professional designer or hardcore hobbyist that can afford one.

The 3-D printing process – performed by laying down successive layers of plastic material with a special printer – is now within reach for private individuals who wish to materialize their ideas and concepts. Though the models aimed at the general public can build objects in layers as thin as 100 microns (which offers a great final result for a homemade object), the technology still does not allow these fans of design to build relatively large objects. However, technological development in the 3-D printing field is moving very quickly and some printers on the horizon will soon be able to build much bigger and more complex objects and structures.

The Dutch architecture firm DUS recently unveiled the KamerMaker, which they claim is “the world’s first movable 3-D print pavilion” and can print objects large enough to construct entire rooms. Utilizing a bioplastic made from corn, the machine is able to rapidly print structures as large as 7.2 feet by 7.2 feet by 11.4 feet. Not only it is practical and effective, but the final result is 100 percent biodegradable, a plus when considering the impact that temporary housing can have on the environment.

Another interesting project being developed by an engineering professor from the University of Southern California plans to use a giant 3-D printing apparatus to build entire structures. The bigger-than-a-house  printer would “lay down a concrete foundation, put up walls, even insert wiring and plumbing, and eventually construct an entire building in less than a day,” says professor Behrokh Khoshnevis. Due to the efficiency of his “Contour Crafting” system of concrete layering, the professor wants to not only help improve living conditions in poor areas and developing countries with permanent structures, but also provide emergency shelters in the aftermath of natural disasters. His design could even be deployed on Mars or the moon to build structures prior to sending human explorers or colonizers.

This fast growing technology could play an important role in numerous areas in the coming months. From a customized lamp for your living room to the first house on the moon, 3-D printers are definitely going to have a big impact on the future.

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