Print Yourself a New Home!

Print Yourself a New Home!

Imagine if you could use a printer to build a new home. A company in Texas, named ICON, uses 3D printers to do just that. The method works in a very similar fashion to your printer at home. Instead of dropping ink onto paper to create a 2D image, these 3D printers layer strips of concrete from the ground up to build 3D walls and roofs for a home. An entire house only takes 5 to 7 days to print, a significantly faster turnaround than standard house construction. Printing in 3D is commonly referred to as “additive manufacturing.” 

Additive manufacturing works off of a digital 3D model of the house or other object you are looking to print. All you need is the concrete, plastic, or metal and the printer does all of the work. Although houses are an incredibly interesting use of the technology, additive manufacturing is most common in manufacturing and other industrial facilities as a part of a company’s digital transformation strategy. 

Additive manufacturing has its benefits over traditional methods. For one, it produces significantly less waste as it only adds material that is needed. It is lightning fast when it comes to small production runs or prototyping as it eliminates the need for setting up molds and complex production lines. It also cuts back on inventory as you don’t need to store excess parts, all you need is the 3D file and filament materials ready to be used as needed. 

3D printing has been around since the 1980s, but only in recent years has it begun to spread across industries.

Boeing uses additive manufacturing when building its aircraft. The engine inside the Boeing 777x has over 300 3D printed parts. The decision to use 3D printing stems from Boeing’s desire to reduce weight and improve efficiency of certain components. The company saw great success and the 777x is now among the most economical aircrafts on the market. 

Porsche uses additive manufacturing to create the pistons in its 911 GT2 RS engine. 3D printing the pistons from high-purity metal powder reduced their weight by 10%. With the lighter pistons, Porsche was able to increase the engine speed, lower the temperature load on the pistons, and optimize the combustion. The innovation has added 30 PS more power to the engine while simultaneously improving its efficiency. 

ExxonMobil uses additive manufacturing to prototype new equipment. 3D printing allows for much quicker turnaround times in manufacturing, and thus is incredibly useful for rapid prototyping. ExxonMobil 3D printed several prototypes for its droplet generator — essentially a component that removes water from natural gas. Rather than manufacturing and assembling the part over a few weeks, the company could print each part within several hours, adding significant savings to time and money. 

A4 Systems uses additive manufacturing in each of its products. Using it in the prototyping stage allows us to rapidly create dozens of different designs to find the optimal solution. In the production stage, 3D printing allows us to quickly produce highly customized components at a very low cost. Additive manufacturing is one of the drivers of innovation behind A4.


This article is part of a series of nine articles entitled, “The 9 Pillars of Digital Transformation.” A4 Systems is a world-class team of cyber physical system product developers. We transform quality data into primary competitive advantage by implementing the 9 pillars into our projects and solutions. 

Keep an eye out for the other articles here.