Fully-recyclable 3D printed house made of ‘wood flour’ unveiled by researchers

Fully-recyclable 3D printed house made of ‘wood flour’ unveiled by researchers

Building a house is no easy feat. But what if you could print one?

For the first time, researchers have 3D-printed a home made entirely from natural materials.

The 600 square foot house - constructed by a team at the US University of Maine - is made from wood fibres and bio-resins left over from sawmills.

Most existing 3D printed homes rely on high-emissions materials like concrete.

But this new prototype is fully recyclable, minimising concrete use.

Maine governor Janet Mills said that the homes could help provide a climate-friendly solution to the state’s housing shortage of 20,000 units.

"It's extraordinary. I didn't know what to expect," she told reporters at the home’s unveiling.

"I thought maybe some hunk of clay kind-of-looking thing, but this is a real house."

How long does it take to 3D print a home?

The BioHome3D is a one-bedroom, one-bathroom bungalow. Inside the unit, the ceiling curves down to meet the walls, creating a cosy living space.

The building was printed in four modules, then moved to the site and assembled in half a day. It took an electrician two hours to wire the house.

The University of Maine team hopes to bring printing time down to two days.

But first, they’ll monitor the prototype for several months, measuring how it copes with cold, snow, heat, and humidity.

If scaled up, the printed home could be a game changer for accommodation shortages, Governor Mills said.

"This has the potential to help us with the homeless population, the homeless problem. Not this winter, because it's not ready to be mass produced yet," she said.

"But once we get our factory of the future up and running, we will be able to produce homes of this sort."

How could this 3D printed house help the planet?

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, construction and materials account for 11 per cent of global carbon emissions.

Canva
The concrete industry is a major cause of global carbon emissions. - Canva

Much of this comes from the concrete industry. Cement production alone generates around 2.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year - about 8 per cent of the global total. It also consumes almost a tenth of the world’s industrial water supplies and much of the world’s sand.

The BioHome3D sits on a concrete foundation, but most of it is printed from ‘wood flour’ - the waste left over from sawmills.

"There's 1.2 million tons of wood residuals in our sawmills right now in the region that could go to print housing," Habib Dagher, executive director of the university's Advanced Structures and Composites Center, told the crowd gathered inside the large lab space.

“Unlike the existing technologies, the entire BioHome3D was printed, including the floors, walls and roof. The biomaterials used are 100 per cent recyclable, so our great-grandchildren can fully recycle BioHome3D.”