Homes both big and small built using concrete and 3D printers have been popping up around the world at an increasing rate.
But only a handful of startups and people are taking an even more novel approach to this new construction method by printing with non-concrete materials.
The University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center has taken a new approach to the technology by using a proprietary bio-based material to print the floors, walls, and roof of a 600-square-foot home.
And if it wanted to, ASCC says it could fully recycle the home’s printed components.
“We’re looking at the ability to 100% recycle the home materials five times and we’re doing testing right now to see what happens every time you recycle it,” Habib Dagher told Insider.
Dagher — ASCC’s founding executive director and principal investigator of this project — hopes this home is proof that the tech could help sustainably alleviate our country’s ongoing affordable housing crisis.
Instead of a traditional concrete mix, ASCC uses bio-resins to encapsulate wood residuals from local sawmills …
…creating a durable printing material that could be immune to supply chain fluctuations while giving a second life to what would otherwise be wood waste.
And the supply is nearly as endless as the current demand: Dagher believes the state produces enough wood waste to make 100,000 homes annually.
ASCC has spent the last 20 years developing and testing this unique bio material.
So when the housing crisis hit, construction costs started skyrocketing, and materials and labor became harder to access, the team wanted to see if they could use it to print homes.
We’ve been looking for ways to reduce the cost [of building]increase [housing] availability, and build houses that are more sustainable over the long run,” Dagher told Insider.
Many advocates of 3D printers believe the technology has major benefits over traditional construction.
Because the printer is programmed to be precise, there was almost no construction waste and less physical labor required to build this tiny home.
And printers work faster than humans, increasing construction speeds with the potential of slashing costs as this technology continues to become more common.
These are certainly big benefits at a time when Maine is facing an “unsustainable” affordable housing crisis, Dagher said.