The world’s biggest 3D printer can a make a house in under 80 hours


The University of Maine just unveiled the world’s largest polymer 3D printer. The new printer, named Factory of the Future 1.0 (FoF 1.0), can print objects as large as 96 feet long by 32 feet wide by 18 feet high. It’s also quite speedy, relatively speaking, as it can print up to 500 pounds per hour. That’s like three people, every hour.

It can dynamically switch between printing techniques to suit different aspects of complex jobs. The printer can flip between large-scale additive manufacturing, subtractive manufacturing, continuous tape layup and robot arm operations. These technologies make the printer uniquely suited for a number of industries, including housing, infrastructure and the development of military vehicles.

Most of the stuff it makes is recyclable, so “you can basically deconstruct it, grind it up if you wish” and “do it again”, according to Dr. Habib Dagher, the Director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine. To that end, the printer prioritizes biobased materials, like wood residuals.

This tech seems like a great way to build a ton of affordable housing quickly and that’s exactly what some proponents have in mind. “Maine needs an estimated 80,000 additional homes by 2030, many specifically for households with incomes at or below the area median income,” said MaineHousing’s Development Director Mark Wiesendanger. “This effort creates another means of producing quality affordable housing, while further driving costs down, and using abundant wood residuals from Maine sawmills.” AP suggests the printer “may one day create entire neighborhoods.” The specs indicate that it should be able to make a modest single-story home in around 80 hours.

However, this is America, so it’s not like people built this thing just to help the unhoused. UMaine researchers received funding from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy. These governmental institutions are going to want a return on their investment, so the printer will also likely be used to whip up lightweight rapidly deployable vessels, like submarines and other maritime vehicles. Senator Susan Collins called the printer “invaluable to our national security.”

The FoF 1.0 has a sibling printer on the UMaine campus, which was the previous record holder for the world’s largest 3D printer. It’s already been used to manufacture a 600-square-foot, single-family home made of wood fiber and bioresin materials. The new printer, however, is four times the size. Luckily, the two models are housed in the same location and can work on different aspects of the same projects simultaneously.

The University of Maine will soon break ground on a new research laboratory called the Green Engineering and Materials (GEM) Factory of the Future. This will be the new home of both printers, with a primary aim to “facilitate and scale up more sustainable manufacturing practices.” It will also likely house even larger printers in the future. “We’re learning from this to design the next one,” Dr. Dagher told ABC News.



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