3D Printing
Among access to education, clean water and electricity, housing quality is also one of the most important indicators of development and poverty. The U.N. currently estimates that 880 million people live in slums and need access to “adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services,” while other sources estimate the number is closer to 1.3 billion.

While most of that number lives in the densely populated slums of widely developing countries such as India, they also live on the outskirts of wealthy cities with unaffordable housing prices, such as London and New York.

As the world population is projected to reach 9.7 billion by 2050, from the current 7.3 billion, the number in need of proper housing will extend to well over 2 billion. To combat this growing housing crisis, 3D printing, the seemingly panacea to many societal problems has become a potentially quick and easy solution.

It is truly amazing to see how far 3D printing has come. Technically first invented in 1951 with the ink jet printer and then in 1984 creating simple plastic items, the technology can now create prosthetics, cars and even organs. In the last few years, 3D printing technology has advanced as far as producing full-sized houses. In June, a Chinese company completed the first 3D printed house in 45 days. The giant printers gradually build layer upon layer, usually of concrete or mud, which then all solidify to create the house’s exterior. Even if the technology is still expensive, it may just be the solution to low-cost housing and help reduce poverty.

Also in the last few months, the World’s Advanced Saving Project, a company based in Italy, announced the largest delta-style 3D print, which hopes to build homes for very low costs. The company’s 12-meter tall machine used only $50 worth of materials to construct a 12-meter tall mud home. Unlike other printers that may rely on cement to construct buildings, the BigDelta is more sustainable in that it uses abundant local materials, like clay, mud or straw, that leave a small environmental impact. As the technology continues to improve, it will likely build more advanced homes with pipes or more proper sewage disposal.

While the future of 3D printing buildings may be in part for the wealthy, producing fantastic designs and intricate structures, the technology can also be used to alleviate poverty, quickly producing cheap, environmentally friendly homes.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr