UMaine Unveils First 3D-Printed Home in Aim of Mass-Producing Affordable Housing
Researchers at the University of Maine on Monday unveiled what they say is a promising, climate-friendly answer to the nation’s affordable housing crisis: the world’s first bio-based 3D-printed house.
University, state and federal officials joined Maine Governor Janet Mills and U.S. Senator Susan Collins at a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the 600-square-foot home.
“We’re thrilled to unveil the first 3D-printed house, made of…bio-stuff,” Mills joked, as a large black blanket was lifted, revealing the single-story home.
From the outside, this house looks like any other new construction. It has white siding and black trim around four front windows. The only difference is that the roof is curved and the corners of the house are rounded.
Inside, a small hallway leads to a titled bathroom and a furnished bedroom. Another door leads to a small living room and an open kitchen with all appliances.
The whole house, from the ceiling to the walls, was printed with the university’s 3D printer.
Some of the walls have been painted; others are covered with sheets. Some floors are tiled or covered with laminate floors.
But as printed, the walls and ceiling indicate that something about this house is different.
“This was printed at 90 degrees, so from the back of the house to the front of the house, there’s a series of lines that run along the roof and down the wall, about a quarter inch from interval,” Tomlinson said from the living room. . “So it looks like you’re in this beaded ceiling wall combination.”
The house was printed using a material known as wood flour. It’s basically waste left over from a sawmill – and mixed with a corn-based binder.
“There are currently 1.2 million tonnes of wood residue in our area sawmills that could be used to print housing,” Habib Dagher, executive director of the university’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, told AFP. the crowd gathered inside the large laboratory.
The center has spent years experimenting with the material with help and funding from the US Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
Dagher said the material presents a potential business opportunity for Maine’s forest products industry and could serve as an inexpensive, renewable and recyclable building material.
The next step is to intensify the printing process.
The goal, Dagher said, is to print one of those houses in two days.
Maine lacks about 20,000 affordable housing units for low-income households. And while money has poured into the state for construction, progress has been slow with supply chain challenges and a limited workforce to build new units.
But Dan Brennan, executive director of MaineHousing, says this project could achieve what the state has previously hinted at – speed.
“We all know our labor challenges, and it’s not going away,” he said. “The idea that we can create housing in a fraction of the time with a fraction of the labor adds an efficiency that we have never experienced before.”
Dagher said the lab is a long way from producing large-scale 3D-printed homes. This first prototype will remain outside for several months and sensors will collect information on the impact of cold, snow – and possibly heat and humidity – on the house.
After her tour of the 3D-printed home, Governor Janet Mills said she thinks these homes will put Maine on the map.
“It’s amazing. I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. “I thought maybe a piece of clay looked like something, but it’s a real house.”
It could be another tool to solve Maine’s housing crisis, she added.
“It has the potential to help us with the homeless population, the homelessness issue. Not this winter, because it’s not ready for mass production yet,” Mills said. “But once we have our factory of the future in place, we can produce houses like this.”
University officials say an expansion of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center is underway. The addition will serve as a training ground for the next generation of scientists and engineers. And it could allow the university to print more houses, faster.