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Societal woes are many nowadays. One notable problem in many parts of the United States and the world is affordable housing. This is especially true in inflationary times and is one added to the wake of a worldwide pandemic along with many other economic factors.

3D printing may be part of an overall solution that makes the cost of constructing affordable housing much more favorable than it has been in the past. Academic researchers are working hard at finding pathways to affordable housing using 3D printing as a key technology to achieve housing goals.

Improving Housing by Printing in Miami

The University of Miami School of Architecture team is working in collaboration with the 3D construction firm Printed Farms to find ways to create innovative living space for persons seeking affordable housing. The university and their partner are working on this topic against a legacy of a construction industry that is a true consumer of materials and budget. The team approached the City of Miami regarding the use of new 3D printing technologies to rebuild structures in lieu of traditional construction.

Printed Farms COBOD BOD 2 printer in action (Source: Printed Farms)

When they presented initial designs, their approach was well received. Their pilot programs are progressing with 3D concrete printing taking only about 10 days to complete. It’s an ideal technology to pursue as labor is scarce for construction projects as is new budgetary resources. 3D printing is efficient, conserves materials use with little waste, and puts a machine to work in lieu of a person; a 3D printer can operate round the clock and perform the work of multiple employees, affording greater productivity. All the while, the completed project produces affordable housing which has always been problematic to produce.

From Tropical Beaches to Remote and Rural Iowa

What’s working in Miami may just as well work in Iowa. Iowa State University is also working on affordable housing initiatives as well. 3D printing, as in Miami, is part of their approach and solution.

In Iowa, regular housing has not always been affordable. Such a dilemma had provided Iowa State University fodder for a project that sought faster, affordable solutions with the use of 3D-printing.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) announced a $1.4 million Strategic Infrastructure Program (SIP) grant for Iowa State’s College of Design’s 3D Affordable Innovative Technologies (3D AIT) Housing Project.

The project is a response to high housing demand in rural communities. Such demand is driven by migration from urban centers and more remote workers migrating to rural communities such as some in Iowa. Rural communities, however, weren’t positioned well to accommodate such growing demand for affordable housing, thus the funding initiative was set in place.

The $1.4 million grant will fund equipment and materials, including a 3D construction printer, 3D concrete construction printing materials and components, on-site robotics, mobile CNC machining, web technologies, and virtual and extended reality.

Printing Affordable Homes in Richmond, Virginia

The 3D printing solution is also alive and well in the effort to provide affordable housing in Richmond, Virginia.

Virginia Tech is engaged in the Printing for Affordable Concrete Housing and Training (PACT) project through their Myers-Lawson School of Construction. It is working hard at prototyping and constructing a 3D-printed concrete home in Richmond.

Virginia Tech also using a COBOD 2 for printing homes (Source: Virgina Tech)

The pilot program is set on exploring cost savings and ferreting out efficiencies with concrete 3D-printing technology. The end goal is to build affordable homes in Virginia and beyond.

Researchers at Virginia Tech are printing a 1,400-square-foot home using a modular 3D-printer named COBOD2. The printer was pioneered by the Danish and is adaptable to any location and design.

3D Printers as Social Workers

3D printing continues to advance so many corners of industry. We find them working wonders in healthcare settings, fabricating orthotics, making parts for cars, boats, and other vehicles. They’re used to solve problems and make things that would otherwise be costly or take large amounts of time.

But now, we’re seeing 3D printers used to help resolve social problems – namely the availability of affordable housing in communities – which are many – that need it, but don’t always have the resources to produce it.

The flexibility, combined with the fast turnaround and low cost of 3D printing is prologue to problem-solving at a time when many are running out of solutions, and the problems of our world (such as affordable housing) seem to be mounting. It’s a fine time to sit back and look at the benefit that such technology provides and how it can be an important part of finding better ways to economically achieve goals within society, doing social work that otherwise might not get done.

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