When I was a kid I always wondered about how cool it would be if we could live in the world of the popular American animated sitcom The Jetsons. The show aired from 1962 to 1963, but the cartoon was set 100 years in the future. As it sometimes turns out with sci-fi stories, the future becomes reality. The Jetsons featured 3D printing, tablets, holograms, smart watches, flying cars and other strange inventions. While the flying cars may not have become a reality quite yet – they are testing drones as a method of delivery – I used to love the Jetsons’ food replicator that could churn out anything from asparagus to stroganoff. This now is a reality with companies like Foodini and CojoJet making it possible to create delicious 3D-printed entrées and desserts with the press of a button.
While it can be hard for some of these ideas to become reality, engineers from the global technology, engineering and manufacturing company, Arconic, look forward to bringing the world of The Jetsons to real life. A senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute says, “Once we are able to 3D-print a wall, we no longer have the need for flat walls. We will have a lot of free form structures that are unlike anything that we have today.”
Mega city printed by 3D
CNN had commented – “Imagine what it would be like if huge cities could be created with the click of a button. It might seem a bit far-fetched, but that’s where 3D printing technology is headed, according to one Dubai-based startup company called Cazza. Cazza has designed a 3D printing crane dubbed the “Minitank”, which the company says can layer up to 2,153 square feet (200 sq m) of concrete per day – making it more than 50% faster than conventional construction methods.” The really cool thing about Cazza is that the mastermind behind the Minitank is a teenager. Chris Kelsey, CEO and co-founder of Cazza construction automation company, is just 19 years old, and last year used the money he made by selling his previous startup, Appsitude, to fund his current project. As well as hiring a team of engineers experienced in the 3D printing field, Cazza also enlisted structural engineers to assess existing 3D printers in the construction world and identify where their designs could be improved.
Jack Cheng, professor at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology commented, “It’s possible to print an entire city but, of course, it will depend on the speed. Concrete is not like plastic.”
Printed Houses for US$10K
As reported by the National Post, “This San Francisco start-up will 3D-print your house in 24 hours and it will only cost US$10K.” This is amazing and can fill the gap in affordable housing in many impoverished countries. San Francisco-based Apis Cor reported on its blog that it can build an entire 400 square foot house with its custom printer and it only costs US$10,000. Others have claimed to build houses with 3D printers, but what makes Apis Cor’s house unique is that it wasn’t constructed from pre-printed panels that required assembly by construction workers. The “printer” used is a giant, mobile piece of crane-like equipment that layers on cement in one continuous process, building both the internal and external structure all at once instead of in multiple parts. It’s a one-story structure but it can be constructed in just about any shape, and the company showed how it could be built in even the coldest of conditions in a YouTube video.
Contractors worrying about their jobs shouldn’t panic . . . yet. Once all the walls are put together, those workers are then needed to do everything else — like installing windows and the roof, plus painting, insulating and putting in appliances, according to a report in Quartz. A finished test house that the company built with a partner in Russia is “cozy and comfortable” and includes “a hall, a bathroom, a living room and a compact functional kitchen with the most modern appliances from Samsung Company,” Apis Cor’s blog boasts.
3D printing is already changing the way we view and approach many projects today in many sectors of our life. Will we live in a world of The Jetsons? Time will tell. But so far it’s been a fun ride – so stay tuned!