We've seen 3D printed homes before, but nothing quite like this. Gone is the boxy, modular design in lieu of sleek curves in the new contemporary 3D …
The Cabin of Curiosities sounds like something out of a fairy tale, but it’s real – even if its appearance is reminiscent of fairy tales, too. The small 3D printed cabin is the latest project of Emerging Objects, which has been known to 3D print some curiosities in the past. Emerging Objects is based in the San Francisco Bay area, where a housing crisis has led to a need for creative solutions. It has also led to the easing of restrictions around the construction of secondary housing units, or backyard cottages. The new rules allow homeowners to transform existing backyard buildings, like sheds and garages, into rental units.
Emerging Objects took advantage of that easing of the law to construct the cabin, which, while it doesn’t have a 3D printed frame, is covered in more than 4,500 3D printed ceramic tiles. It is structurally sound, weathertight and completely livable, in addition to being beautiful to look at. It’s also an excellent example of upcycling. Emerging Objects is fond of turning odd things into 3D printing material, and the Cabin of Curiosities is no exception – the tiles of its front facade are 3D printed from a mix of Portland cement, sawdust, salt, and even grape skins.
That front facade is more than just a wall – it’s a garden. The “living wall” is made up of tiles gathered in clusters of six, with four of those tiles designed to hold tiny air plants or succulents. The roof and contiguous facades feature a unique design concept that Emerging Objects calls “seed stitch,” inspired by a knitting term.
“The Seed Stitch Wall is a prototype for a 3D printed ceramic wall cladding system,” Emerging Objects says. “Whereas most applications of 3D printing demonstrate how 3D printing allows for mass difference, Seed Stitch is an exercise in mass complexity and allows the influence of the hand, gravity, temperature, and the attempts of a machine to print an unstable shape, to produce difference.”
The seed stitch tiles are 3D printed at high speed in a technique that utilizes gcode to create an uneven, handmade-looking aesthetic in which no two tiles are the same. On the inside, the walls are 3D printed from translucent bioplastic with custom relief textures and color-changing LED lights. The interior of the house also features several 3D printed decor items from Emerging Objects.
The cabin may be small, but it should appeal greatly to the growing number of people subscribing to the “tiny house” movement. The translucent walls fill it with light and make it seem more spacious, not to mention cheery.
“These are not just investigations into testing materials for longevity or for structure, but also a study of aesthetics,” said Ronald Rael, Co-founder of Emerging Objects. “We see the future as being elegant, optimistic, and beautiful.”
The Cabin of Curiosities captures all of those things. 3D printing allows it to be constructed quickly, as well as enabling the possibility of customization. It could easily be put up in a backyard, fitting neatly into a corner and allowing the resident of the cabin to have their own space. The Cabin of Curiosities may look like a fairy tale house, but it could be the solution to a very real housing crisis across the world.
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In the near future, building a new home may be as easy as printing out an airline boarding pass.
At South By Southwest today, New Story, a Y Combinator-backed charity that works to build houses for people in developing nations, and Icon, a robotics construction company in Austin, Texas, unveiled what is believed to be the first 3D-printed house that is fully up to code and permitted for people to inhabit.
The two organizations came together to show that it’s feasibly possible to build an easy-to-replicate house in under 24 hours. They plan to take this proof-of-concept and start producing small houses for families in countries like Haiti and El Salvador. The 800-sq-ft house cost around $10,000 to build using Icon’s proprietary Vulcan printer, but the company plans to eventually bring that price down to around $4,000. Theoretically, it could soon print one of the houses in about six hours, a representative for New Story told Quartz. But the process is still being ironed out—the house in Austin is the only one built so far.
Icon’s house printer, the Vulcan. (Quartz/Mike Murphy)
The Vulcan printer was also on display, in the yard next to the lot where the house was printed. Massive, but still portable, the printer excretes a custom blend of concrete that hardens as it’s printed. The concrete is laid in 100 roughly one-inch-thick strands that hold their shape as they harden. Icon cofounder Evan Loomis told Quartz that the strength of the printed walls is stronger than cinderblocks after a few days of hardening, although the house is entirely habitable after it’s been set up.
Each house features a living room, bathroom, a bedroom, and a study (which can be another bedroom). (Quartz/Mike Murphy)
After the walls are printed, New Story crew members come in and install windows, a wooden roof, basic plumbing, and electrical wiring which can be drilled right into the walls. The entire setup, including the finishing, takes under a day.
In the future, Icon would like to be able to develop robots that could automatically install the windows after the Vulcan finishing printing, and drones that could spray-paint the exterior walls. It’ll explore the possibility of printing roofs as well, but the technology for suspending concrete as it prints isn’t really feasible yet.
The house is made up of about 100 lines of concrete, and a wooden roof. (Quartz/Mike Murphy)
There are other groups working on printing houses, including Apis Cor in Russia, but the group in Austin believes its structure to be the first printed house that’s been deemed inhabitable by a local government. Icon hopes to eventually commercialize its house-printing technology in the US, where housing shortages are reaching severe levels in some larger cities. “Affordability is important,” Loomis said, “regardless of whether you’re in Austin or El Salvador.”
In theory, families could customize the design, arrange for a printer to come plop down on their land, and have a readymade house to move into a day later. Even the average Amazon delivery takes longer than that.
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San Francisco-based startup Apis Cor built a whole house in a Russian town within 24 hours. It didn’t repair an existing home or use prefabricated parts to make that happen — its technology’s secret lies in 3D printing. The company used a mobile 3D printer to print out the house’s concrete walls, partitions and building envelope. Workers had to manually paint it and install the roofing materials, wiring, hydro-acoustic and thermal insulation, but even those didn’t take them that much time.
The result is a 400-square-foot house that’s around as big as a standard hotel room. It’s no mansion, but it could be a good choice for people who prefer tiny homes. Apis Cor says the whole house set it back $10,134, with the door and windows eating up the largest part of the budget. That sounds about right for a tiny home, though that amount doesn’t seem to including the cost of the land itself.
The company has uploaded a video of the process you can watch below. It even shows what the interior looks like with appliances, including a curved TV that fits the house’s curved wall, provided by Samsung. If Apis Cor does start 3D printing houses, owners can choose any shape they want and even choose to make one larger than this compact abode.