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How the world's largest 3D printer could change housing and people's lives for the better.

If you've ever seen a 3D printer in action, then you already know they're a remarkable feat of modern engineering.

Case in point:


So powerful 3D printers are, hmmm? GIF via BusyBotz 3D Printing/YouTube.

But they're great for a lot more than statuettes and tchotchkes. Today, 3D printers are being used as a lower-cost manufacturing alternative for everything from dental retainers to jet engine parts and plenty in between.

Now, one company has developed the world's largest 3D printer, which they plan on using to build homes.

The Italian maker of 3D printers is called World's Advanced Saving Project (WASP), and their 40-foot-tall, 20-foot-wide beast of a printer has been dubbed BigDelta.

Yes, this towering contraption is the printer. Image by WASP.

WASP wants to build affordable and sustainable housing in poor rural communities around the world.

The company explained in a press release that it wasn't money that motivated them to build BigDelta, it was the need.


Image by WASP.

According to UN-Habitat, 40% of the global population (roughly 3 billion people) will be in need of adequate housing by 2030, which means nearly 100,000 housing units need to be built every day between now and then.

BigDelta won't just plop down your run-of-the-mill block-shaped homes because what fun would that be?

"[Traditional] architecture is square," says WASP founder Massimo Moretti, but "in nature ... form is not square, it is round."

Massimo Moretti, founder of WASP. GIF via WASP/YouTube.

3D printing allows them to build structures, layer by layer, based on biomimicry, or nature-inspired design, which includes the curves we see in the organic world.

Corners are for squares. GIF via WASP/YouTube.

They want to prove that home building doesn't have to be as costly as it's become with conventional construction.

Like its namesake insect, WASP's plan is to build dwellings using nothing but earth and water (another example of biomimicry) and, of course, a gigantic printer.

Female potter wasps build their brood nests using a mixture of dirt and regurgitated water. Image by Ian Alexander/Wikimedia Commons.

By combining the new world technology of digital fabrication with the old world technology of adobe (buildings made with water, dirt, clay, and plant fibers), they believe they can print new digs without all the labor, equipment, and materials that typically make home building expensive and time-intensive.

A smaller-scale demonstration of how BigDelta works. Image via WASP/YouTube.

The WASP team has a lot of experimentation to do before they put BigDelta to work. Luckily, the project is being powered by a smart team, a successful business, and a lot of people hoping (and praying) for their success.

And like Moretti says, "Si può fare!" or "Can be done!"

Check out a demonstration of WASP's smaller-sized, 13-foot clay 3D printer:

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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