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A 3D Printed House Would Take Over 220 Years to Build

| 3D Printer Material, 3D Printers | June 25, 2013

James May Lego House

Top Gear's James May built a house from Lego

Several architecture firms are vying to become the first to build a fully 3D printed house, using large scale printers that use concrete. But what if you attempted to build a full-size house using a desktop 3D printer that you can buy for less than $2,000 over the internet. How long would it take and how much would it cost?

Blogger Randy Nelson of real estate blog Movoto calculated that using a MakerBot Replicator 2 it would take 220 years to complete and cost over $330,000 in plastic filament. No one would obviously attempt such a futile exercise

Randy reached his conclusion by calculating how much time it would take to print the 27,735 bricks that it takes to build a standard 2,500 sq ft house. He started off by estimating how long it takes to print a single 8″ x 3.5″ x 2.75″ brick and calculating it would cost $12 per brick in ABS filament. Each solid plastic brick would take 2.9 days to print at a medium resolution of 0.255mm. Multiplying this by the 27,000 plus bricks gives the final figures of 224 years, one month, and 19 days to print and a total cost of $338,520.

“All of these estimates don’t take into consideration potential hiccups with the process, such as printing errors and clogged print heads. These will only add to the time (for cleaning and reprints) and cost (for wasted plastic).”

Obviously using a single printer to produce all of the bricks would be impractical, so Randy thought that using multiple MakerBot 3D printers would speed up the process. A typical 2-level house takes around 4 months to build, which would require 2,011 3D printers working constantly to print all 27,735 bricks in the same time. But this would cost $4.4 million just for the hardware. Ouch.

These estimates only cover the bricks required to build a house and do not include all the other essentials such as plumbing and wiring. Randy admits that this is a ridiculous exercise and goes to show that 3D printers, contrary to the hype, are not able to produce everything imaginable.

There does seem to be a race to produce the first 3D printed house in Holland with two architecture firms that have designed special 3D printers that they think are up to the job. The KamerMaker produces large polypropylene building blocks that are stacked together. The D-Shape printer uses sand and other building materials and a binder to produce sandstone blocks and has already been used to produce two-storey structures.

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