3D printing technology is experiencing a bit of an explosion at the moment. Your local Home Depot has a MakerBot display, and many libraries around the world offer fabrication stations along with the reference section and magazines. All of that is very interesting, but perhaps closer to home for some of us, the technology is also making waves in the Built Environment.
Several groups, both in academia and in the private sector, are scaling up these printers to construct the concrete shells of buildings. Researchers at the University of Southern California are developing a large-scale gantry concrete pumper designed to print a 2,500 square foot house, essentially in one continuous pour, in less than 24 hours. http://www.contourcrafting.org
The China-based WinSun Decoration Design Engineering has successfully printed 10 single-story homes in a 24-hour period, each around 2,100 square feet, and costing around $5,000 apiece. These structures were made from prefab panels that can be constructed on-site.
A building composed strictly of concrete does have its limitations. While 3D printing using multiple materials is in development, it may be several years before wiring and plumbing systems flow out of these machines. Still, the technology is worth keeping an eye on, as advancements are coming at an increasingly rapid pace.