Fresh juice


World's largest 3D printer paves way for affordable, sustainable housing

In a groundbreaking development that promises to reshape the construction industry, the University of Maine has unveiled the world's largest 3D printer, a colossal machine capable of creating entire houses and potentially, entire neighborhoods. This cutting-edge technology not only slashes construction time and labor but also offers a sustainable solution to the pressing issue of affordable housing.



The towering printer, dubbed the "Factory of the Future 1.0," stands as a testament to the University of Maine's commitment to innovation and its dedication to addressing societal challenges through cutting-edge research and development. Capable of extruding thermoplastic polymers at an astonishing rate of 500 pounds (227 kilograms) per hour, this behemoth of a machine can print objects measuring a staggering 96 feet long, 32 feet wide, and 18 feet high (29 meters by 10 meters by 5.5 meters).

"This massive printer opens up new research frontiers to integrate these collaborative robotics operations at a very large scale with new sensors, high-performance computing and artificial intelligence," said Habib Dagher, director of UMaine's Advanced Structures & Composite Center, where both the new and the original printers are housed.

The unveiling of this groundbreaking technology drew representatives from various government departments, including defense, energy, and housing, as well as other stakeholders eager to harness the transformative potential of these new technologies. Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, aptly described the printer as "a beacon of innovation."

The University of Maine's foray into large-scale 3D printing began in 2019 with the commissioning of the original printer, which was certified by Guinness World Records as the world's largest polymer 3D printer. This pioneering machine was used to create a 600-square-foot, single-family home dubbed "BioHome3D," made from sustainable wood fiber and bio-resin materials that are fully recyclable.

The success of BioHome3D not only demonstrated the feasibility of rapidly producing homes using 3D printing technology but also highlighted the potential to address the growing demand for affordable housing in regions like Maine, where an additional 80,000 homes are projected to be needed over the next six years, according to MaineHousing.

"It's not about building a cheap house or a biohome," Dagher emphasized, referring to the first 3D-printed house made entirely with bio-based materials. "We wanted to build a house that people would say, 'Wow, I really want to live there.'"

The university's vision extends far beyond individual homes. With the new, even larger printer, researchers aim to scale up their 3D-printed home technology, utilizing bio-based materials derived from Maine's abundant wood residuals. This ambitious endeavor could pave the way for the creation of entire printed neighborhoods, offering a sustainable and cost-effective avenue to address homelessness and the affordable housing crisis in the region.

Moreover, the environmental benefits of this technology are substantial. Traditional construction methods contribute significantly to global greenhouse gas emissions, with the buildings and construction sector accounting for roughly 37% of emissions, largely due to the production and use of materials like cement, steel, and aluminum. In contrast, 3D-printed buildings can be recycled and deconstructed, allowing for the material to be reused and reprinted, thus reducing waste and minimizing the carbon footprint.

The potential applications of this groundbreaking technology extend far beyond residential construction. The University of Maine has already demonstrated its versatility by using the original 3D printer to create a 25-foot boat, and the printers have been utilized for various defense department structures as well.

As the university prepares to break ground on a new building this summer, the prospect of even larger printers looms on the horizon, further expanding the possibilities of this revolutionary technology. With multiple printers working in concert, manufacturing processes can be streamlined, enabling concurrent production of various components or even entire structures.

The world's largest 3D printer stands as a shining example of the transformative power of innovation and collaboration. By harnessing the expertise of researchers, engineers, and industry partners, the University of Maine has not only pushed the boundaries of what is possible in construction but has also paved the way for a more sustainable, affordable, and efficient future for housing and beyond.

As this technology continues to evolve and garner widespread adoption, it holds the promise of reshaping the built environment, addressing pressing societal challenges, and ushering in a new era of sustainable and resilient communities. The world's largest 3D printer is a testament to the human spirit of ingenuity and our collective pursuit of solutions that harmonize progress with environmental stewardship.

Share with friends:

Write and read comments can only authorized users