3D-printed home made from forest products is 100% recyclable
With clusters and even complete neighborhoods of 3D-printed homes taking shape around the world, we're starting to see the technology deliver on its promise as a streamlined solution for low-cost housing. A recently finished project has taken this concept into new territory as a 3D-printed home made with 100% natural materials, which allows it to be fully recycled at the end of its life.
In a relatively short space of time, we’ve seen 3D-printed homes evolve from rudimentary shelters to some lavish examples of luxury living. We've also seen some eco-friendly approaches that make use of raw earth materials, but most are made with the help of cement or concrete. As part of the 3D printing process, these materials are extruded through giant nozzles to form the walls layer by layer, and combine with more conventional timber framing to build out walls and roofing.
The freshly finished BioHome3D is the handiwork of researchers at the University of Maine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, along with Maine Housing and the Maine Technology Institute. Instead of cement, concrete or some type of proprietary mortar, the home’s 3D-printed walls are made of wood fibers and natural resins sourced from Maine’s local forest product industry, as are its floor and roof.
“Many technologies are being developed to 3D print homes, but unlike BioHome3D, most are printed using concrete,” said Dr. Habib Dagher, executive director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center. “However, only the concrete walls are printed on top of a conventionally cast concrete foundation. Traditional wood framing or wood trusses are used to complete the roof. Unlike the existing technologies, the entire BioHome3D was printed, including the floors, walls and roof. The biomaterials used are 100% recyclable, so our great-grandchildren can fully recycle BioHome3D.”
The house was created with the University of Maine’s record-setting 3D printer, responsible for previously producing the world’s largest 3D-printed boat. Rather than typical feedstocks such as cement-like mixtures, the printer is designed to work with bio-based, renewable feedstocks that use cellulose nanofibrils sourced from wood products as the starting point, drawing on Maine’s ample forests for a more sustainable approach.
This printer was used to create four modules for the BioHome3D, which were assembled on site in half a day. A single electrician then had electricity running within two hours. The finished 600-square-foot (55.7-sq-m) prototype, located outside the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, is fitted with sensors to monitor its thermal, environmental and structural performance throughout the upcoming winter season. This data will inform future designs.
“Our state is facing the perfect storm of a housing crisis and labor shortage, but the University of Maine is stepping up once again to show that we can address these serious challenges with trademark Maine ingenuity,” said Governor of Maine, Janet Mills. “With its innovative BioHome3D, UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is thinking creatively about how we can tackle our housing shortage, strengthen our forest products industry, and deliver people a safe place to live so they can contribute to our economy. While there is still more to be done, today’s development is a positive step forward.”
Source: University of Maine