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Summary:

Have you ever wondered how long it would take to print a house? Brick by brick it would take more than two centuries, according to one equation.

MakerBot Replicator 2:  A low cost mobile 3D printer for the maker community.

These days, 3D printing is everywhere. From charms and tchotchkes to guns and even body parts, the automagical thing-maker is opening up programmers and designers to new ways of developing their products.

Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before 3D printing spreads to real estate. The blog arm of real-estate search site Movoto did some number crunching, and concluded that it would take a single MakerBot Replicator 2 about 220 years, four months and 11 days to finish the bricks required for a standard two-story, 2,500-square-foot house. And it would cost $332,820 in plastic.

Movoto blogger Randy Nelson came up with the equation by timing how long it took a Replicator 2 desktop printer to build a single brick measuring 8 x 3.5 x 2.75 inches. From there, he extrapolated how many bricks a standard house would require, and multiplied that number by the time — 2.9 days per brick. The reason each brick takes so long is because of its density. Unlike standard 3D printed objects, which are often hollow or rely on geodesic design to keep production time down, each brick in this hypothetical hosue is completely solid and built with the Replicator 2’s .225 millimeter detail setting.

The time, of course, is just a rough guideline, as it doesn’t take into account the standard woes of building a home, including weather and assorted other delays, nor any part of the interior structure of the house.

Still it’s fun to apply Nelson’s equation — and the $48 market price for 1 kg of ABS plastic — to some of the most famous properties in the world:

  • A 3D printed White House would cost $5,070,696 and take 3,357 years, 3 months and 23 days.
  • The Palace Versailles would cost $101,184,060 and take 66,994 years and 4 days.
  • The Empire State Building would cost  $222,336,480 and take 147,209 years, 1 month and 1 day.

The enormous price and time wasted on printing a home brick by brick obscures the ways in which 3D printing could actually streamline home construction, with large-scale printers using cement or sustainable materials to product a house as one continuous structure the same way that smaller printers create models. While it may not be efficient now, there’s certainly a chance that 3D printing will make an impact on building in the future.

  1. Great – a sensational headline in a tech blog created by the article’s author ignoring likely improvements in technology.

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  2. Richard Cote Monday, June 17, 2013

    200+ years? Ha! That completely overlooks the potential for crowdsourcing! ;-)

    But who would want to live in an plastic house anyway? Better make sure it’s not bio-degradable PLA or water-soluble PVA…

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  3. kris kowalski Monday, June 17, 2013

    With an up-sized version of the 3-D printer by Custom Contours it can be done in 20 hours. Using concrete. That 20 hours in cludes plumbing and eletrical. This story is already outdated

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  4. What if the bricks were printed with a honeycomb internal structure, and filled with injected foam when they were laid out for insulation?. Maybe even have them interlocking like lego bricks, then joined with cement, or placed by quadracopers flying around the site with a plan as to where to place every brick and in what order. Then what if you had 10 or 20 printers preparing the blocks onsite?
    What about bricks with the internal cable conduits already prepared, window frames and doorways already printed and ready to install and fill with glass panes?
    What about then being able to produce more interesting house plans, domes, irregular shapes to catch the sun the best?
    3D printing could completely revolutionise building!

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  5. I would not consider that printing bricks is printing a house because you would still have to build the house. Printing bricks would be mass production of bricks, which is still more advantageous in standard mass production industry. Maybe they should create bricks which can be used like lego bricks.

    3D printing a house, is a house printed in 1 go, without manual intervention, by a huge printer.

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