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House with 3D printed structures made from wood fibres & bio-resins unveiled at the University of Maine

The University of Maine Advanced Structrures and Compisites Center (ASCC) unveiled a creation on November 21 called ‘BioHome 3D’, which features floors, walls and a roof printed with wood fibres and bio-resins. 

These structures within the 600 square foot prototype are said to be fully recyclable and highly insulated with 100% wood insulation and customisable R-values. According to the university, construction waste was almost eliminated due to the precision of the printing process.

“Our state is facing the perfect storm of a housing crisis and labour shortage, but the University of Maine is stepping up once again to show that we can address these serious challenges with trademark Maine ingenuity,” said Gov. Janet Mills. “With its innovative BioHome3D, UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is thinking creatively about how we can tackle our housing shortage, strengthen our forest products industry, and deliver people a safe place to live so they can contribute to our economy.”

In the US, the National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that, nationally, there is a need for more than 7 million affordable housing units. In Maine alone, the deficit is 20,000 housing units and is growing each year, according to the university.

“With today’s production of the world’s first ever 3D printed house made from recycled forest products, the University of Maine continues to demonstrate its global leadership in innovation and scientific research.” said U.S. Senator Susan Collins, who attended the unveiling event. “This remarkable accomplishment was made possible by the tenacity and expertise of Dr. Habib Dagher, his team and students at the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. I commend them on pioneering this new market opportunity for Maine’s forest products industry, which could help alleviate our nation’s housing shortage. Their groundbreaking work will lay the foundation for the future of affordable housing and help create new jobs across our state.”

UMaine said that printing using abundant, renewable, locally sourced wood fibre feedstock reduces dependence on a constrained supply chain. It also said that the use of the materials supports the revitalisation of local forest product industries and are more resilient to global supply chain disruptions and labour shortages.

Using the additive manufacturing processes and materials developed at UMaine, future low-income homes can be customised to meet a homeowner’s space, energy efficiency and aesthetic preferences. 

“We are finding solutions here at ASCC to the pressing problems that our world faces and that Maine faces, through research on transformative offshore wind technology, next-generation solutions for transportation infrastructure, advanced forest products and large-scale 3D printing, and of course, affordable housing,” said UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy.

The prototype is currently located on a foundation outside ASCC, and is equipped with sensors for thermal, environmental and structural monitoring to test how BioHome3D performs through a Maine winter. Researchers will use the data collected to improve future designs.

The house was printed in four modules, then moved to the site and assembled in half a day according to UMaine. The university also said that electricity was running within two hours with only one electrician needed on site.

“Many technologies are being used to 3D print homes, but unlike BioHome3D, most are printed using concrete. However, only the concrete walls are printed on top of a conventionally cast concrete foundation. Traditional wood framing or wood trusses are used to complete the roof,” said Dagher, ASCC executive director. “Unlike the existing technologies, the entire BioHome3D was printed, including the floors, walls and roof. The biomaterials used are 100% recyclable, so our great-grandchildren can fully recycle BioHome3D.”

UMaine is participating in a DOE-funded program called Hub and Spoke, with Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The program involves the research and development of sustainable, cost-effective bio-based 3D printing feedstock alternatives, such as the material used for BioHome3D. 

UMaine said that the BioHome3D was printed on the ‘world’s largest’ polymer 3D printer, which had been used in 2019 to produce the ‘world’s largest’ 3D printed boat. 

2022 has seen various developments in construction 3D printing, such as a NASA contract being awarded for development of a lunar 3D printing system, read more here.


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