So this is pretty much the bees knees! Gone are the days of thinking printers are just for paper. We’re entering an era where printing has added a dimension… we’re talking 3D of course! Rapid product prototyping is becoming a vital tool in many industrial designer’s arsenals now. But even beyond this is a different frontier… printing homes!

There have been several initiatives in recent years developing this concept of digital barn-raising. A homebuilder out of London called Facit is at the leading edge of this bespoke approach. They’ve fabricated a handful of houses that have partnered computer renderings with CNC milling machines. This home, pictured below, is one such completed project.

The process for home printing is quite simple really… the design team puts together their details in a CAD file and tests the build sequence using a 3D computer model. Once finalized, a series of digitally manufactured components are either be built in a factory or on a project’s site… these components are generally made from standard 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood and are configured with a unique number defining a specific location and type. Once cut by a CNC milling machine, the components are then handled by laborers (no cranes or heavy machinery) and assembled very quickly. In a matter of days a small team can fully piece together an entire home… voila!

A Danish design and planning firm, 1:1 Arkitektur, recently constructed a digitally fabricated house of their own some 60 kilometers north of Copenhagen. For a brief profile of the project, check out this video here from Reuters…

Pretty amazing, eh?

I know what you’re thinking though… this is good stuff, but this technology most certainly relies on an expensive, architecturally-driven process that only a select few will be able to access… what about the 99%? : ) Well, in the name of keeping architectural innovation on par with social innovation, the design team of 00:/ have created an open source design and construction kit called WikiHouse. This series of drawings and plans are open and free for anyone and everyone via a Creative Commons license. Yes, it’s true, there is a god and she loves good design for all!

It will be fascinating to see if and when this WikiHouse catches on… I’m guessing there will be plenty of takers out there considering that homes are ridiculously expensive to build, and this one looks to cut construction costs significantly through both faster production and minimized labor.

And home printing cuts more than just costs… this digital approach to building can cut some serious environmental impacts as well. Homebuilding is a massively resource and energy intensive process. Home printing can lessen both of these aspects through simplification of material procurement and localized construction. It also drastically minimizes waste, which is not a small thing as some home builds send as much as 30% of construction materials straight to the landfills… lame!

So all in all, a pretty flippin’ exciting concept, eh? What’cha think, does this have what it takes to match Jonannes Gutenberg’s 15th century press?