3D-printed houses: Coming to a neighborhood near you?

  • Contour Crafting

    Imagine if you could build a house in as little as a day, with almost no construction crew.

    The 3D printer is poised to make that happen.

    Architects, artists, designers and scientists are figuring out ways to use the budding technology to make building homes faster, easier and cheaper. While none of the prominent 3D projects are fully finished, some are starting to rise off the ground, layer by layer.

    The process works similar to any other 3D printer, only instead of a printer roughly the size of a microwave, it's the size of a building.

    The homes are first designed using 3D modeling software, which uses a code to tell the printer where to move when printing the object's layers. It is capable of taking into account gaps for things such as windows, plumbing, insulation and electrical wiring.

    Then, a variety of materials -- from plastics to concrete to recycled construction materials -- are heated until they become liquids, then printed out layer after layer, to form the structure, as well as various other parts. The parts are put together, along with more common construction elements such as windows and doors, to make a completed building.

    A few drawbacks exist, namely that these are new structures and so they are untested as far as structural integrity goes. There are still questions surrounding things such as material health, fireproofing, wind loads, foundations, insulation and longevity.

    Click on to see five very different 3D-printed home projects that are piquing interest around the world.

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    Ilyce R. Glink is an award-winning, nationally-syndicated columnist, best-selling book author and founder of Best Money Moves, an employee benefit program that helps reduce financial stress. She also owns ThinkGlink.com, where readers can find real estate and personal finance resources.