At the meeting point of robotics, architecture and materials science, the first French house built by 3D printing was inaugurated in Nantes on 21 March 2018. It was the second fix, such as door frames and windows, which caused the delay because of the bad weather over winter. The main achievement came in September 2017, from the giant robot designed by the University of Nantes, which took just 54 hours on site to apply three layers of material between expanding foam and concrete.
Next July, this 95m2 house, christened Yhnova, is to become social housing: a family will be selected to occupy this strange building, which has no corners and, inside, is chock full of innovations. Architect Charles Coiffier says that “the home automation system, managed by smartphone, is very sophisticated”. A technological gem for a good cause which, if it works, will be rolled out elsewhere.
After all, concrete 3D printing would offer three advantages: it brings a major time-saving while at the same time guaranteeing safety at work, it reduces environmental impact and, finally, it reduces costs and could thus be the solution to the housing crisis in developed countries.
The Yhnova project and its technology, called Bâtiprint3D, requires less demanding handling which making work on site less strenuous and reducing risks, and this automation of work reduced the waiting time for a site such as this from 2 weeks to a mere 3 or 4 days. Classic construction methods require greater quantities of materials while 3D printing provides greater geometric control for designing optimised shapes. An essential point given that concrete is one of the most utilised resources on earth, after water.
The reduction in the costs and time of creating structures also and at the same time encourage the ability to offer safe homes accessible to everyone. This is what is happening with certain businesses which aim to build a more sustainable world thanks to 3D technology. The Texan startup Icon has developed a 3D printer which is able to build a house in 24 hours for a product cost of just 4,000 dollars. On 12 March 2018, the company revealed that it is joining forces with the NGO New Story which transforms the life of communities. Starting from the finding that a billion people do not have access to suitable housing, Icon and New Story intend to take action against the current housing problem.
Following a series of tests on materials, the startup will take its Vulcan printer to El Salvador to build 100 sustainable and affordable houses at an unprecedented rate. Not wishing to monopolise the market, it is outsourcing research and hopes that governments and other NGO’s will be ready to use similar systems to resolve the current worldwide housing shortage.
It is by drawing inspiration from collective intelligence and open innovation that we will be in a position to tackle the challenges of tomorrow.