Are "3D Printed" Houses Going To Put Us Out Of Work?

3D printing is an exciting new technology, isn't it? If you break the case for your iPhone, you can print one on-demand in just a few minutes, no more waiting for a new case to ship. If you want to create a 3D model of a new building project, you can have your architect whip one up on a computer and print it out without so much as needing to go buy a box of Lego bricks. 3D printing is truly the next frontier in manufacturing, but...

What if you work in manufacturing?


The downside to 3D printing is that a lot of jobs will become obsolete. Transportation jobs will be hit, factory jobs will be hit, what about construction?

We've read about 3D printed housing that can knock out 10 sturdy homes in one day. A team in China put together a 3D printed home that can withstand an 8.0 earthquake. How can a builder who uses their hands compete with that?

Well, here's how...
  1. 3D Printers Don't Do Drywall

    3D printed homes are utilitarian, really. They lay out the walls, the roof, but they can't handle the finer details of the job. A 3D printed home isn't really a "home," it's a concrete box. Even if we get to a point where 3D printed homes are the norm, we're looking at decades before robots can handle every part of the job.

  2. 3D Printed Homes Are Currently Impractical As An Everyday Solution

    3D printers for buildings aren't like printers for remote controls and desktop fans. The cheapest printers for homes still cost millions of dollars, and are larger than the homes they build. If someone wants to have a guest-home erected on their property, they're far more likely to hire a construction crew than rent a robot.

  3. 3D Printed Homes Are Not Unique

    Right now, 3D printed homes are an effective solution for emergency housing following a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, and they're becoming more popular in China where such a solution is needed given the large population. But right now and for the foreseeable future, all a home-printer can really do is lay out dozens of identical concrete shacks. They're not a serious threat to the luxury home builder, they can't build additional rooms onto existing homes, they can't perform maintenance or remodeling work, the list of things that they can't do is a thousand items longer than the list of things that they can do.
The worst case scenario: Within our lifetimes, house-printers may become mobile, versatile and affordable enough to lay out the framework of the home, but we're still going to need people to get in there and do the hands-on work of drywalling, plumbing, electric wiring, cabinets, and so on.
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