With advanced 3D printing, it's possible to print almost everything -- houses included. But will it be possible to print these houses that are energy-efficient, low priced, and requires easily available resources? If not, then 3D printing isn't the solution to solve the massive shortage of housing that exists across the globe for several reasons.
Well, not yet. Scientists from Estonia's University of Tartu and the Estonian University of Life Sciences have created a solution in the form of a 3D-printable concrete-style material that is built from milled peat, oil shale ash, and silica nanoparticles. The solution claims to reduce the construction cost of private houses up to 10 times.
"Peat has excellent antibacterial and thermal properties, and is inexpensive and widely available in many regions in the world," Jüri Liiv, a Ph.D. researcher with the Estonian Peat Research Center, told Digital Trends. "[However, it has not been] used as a component of concrete-organic materials because of its properties retarding the concrete hardening. Humates present in peat prevent the forming [of] the silicate composite structure and react with pozzolanic minerals, thus preventing forming [a] mechanically durable material. During our last project, the issue was successfully solved, and now we are able to form a durable peat-based composite with very high thermal and mechanical properties."
The composite material that has been created by the researchers possess high thermal conductivity and is strong as well. Despite the fact that peat is used as fuel, the material isn't combustible. Additionally, it hardens within one day of printing, although it remains elastic for a longer time - making it possible to close the air gaps if any.
The team estimates that a house shell with a surface area of up to 490 square-feet could be printed at a cost of $5,850. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough funding for the team to print a full-fledged test house.
So the team only managed to 3D print wall segments as a proof of the concept. Liiv hopes that there will be access to a full-size 3D printer in the coming days, which will allow the researchers to create their proposed test house. It will be interesting to see how the team develops the full-size test house. If it turns out to be reliable, it will surely make a difference across the globe, and help fight the shortage of housing.