It is interesting to consider just how much 3D printing may change the world and our lives, it could make items cheaper, change where items are manufactured and increase choice vastly to name a few things but it’s easy to assume that it will only be small household items: maybe some electronics and components for use in industry but there’s no reason to assume that and assume that 3D printers will remain small. Already in rapid prototyping a 3D printing service with printers able to create full sized parts such as dashboards is common and the only limit to the size of 3D printers is demand; printing arms can span any 3D space and lasers can be used for sintering across large spaces with just as good accuracy as with a desktop machine.
The way that 3D printing is done also means that strength of large items wouldn’t be an issue, aircraft wings are one use for 3D printing that has been mentioned and by integrating everything into one part rather than fitting parts together weak points can be avoided: it is also possible to monitor the part in detail as it is printed to look for any flaws during manufacture.
Houses too now are being suggested as a use for 3D printing services and they are in fact not that different from aircraft wings with internals such as wiring and also plumbing of course that couldn’t be printed into parts of the house ready to be fitted together on site: the only thing stopping a house being printed as a complete unit would be then transporting it.
What if a 3D printing service could print a home on site though, contour crafting is in essence a giant 3D printer that can print an entire home in around 24 hours. It prints much of the house in concrete but also takes other key components and puts them in place such as beams that would come prefabricated and be placed in position. No humans actually working on the building site could also drastically reduce deaths and injuries that occur on building sites every year.
What does quick 3D printed housing really mean though? Well the savings mean potentially affordably replacing slums across the world. Currently if money goes to replacing slum dwellings the new dwellings are made of basic materials still and often simple pre-fabricated sheets of corrugated metal or wood: 3D printing services could be used to create much more robust homes and homes that have integral plumbing for example: a network of small homes could have interconnecting sewage to create a working network for the entire slum area putting an end to open sewers and the illness and pollution they cause. Other advantages would be that currently money for materials or the materials themselves are often misappropriated due to corruption; having a contour crafting 3D printing service would mean it could print houses on the spots where they are meant to be. This may sound fantastic but inventor of contour crafting Behrokh Khoshnevis plans go much further with plans for contour crafting buildings on the moon.