The Intriguing World of 3D Printing: What’s in Store for Architects?

Dive deeper into the layers of the new-age technology, 3D Printing, and explore what’s in store for architects.

Tue Sep 5, 2023

The fraternity of architectural designing has embraced 3D printing with open arms. But what does this gift of technology entail, and how does it add to the viability of various construction practices?

Since ancient times, physical architectural models have been integral to understanding designs and developing projects. However, manually curating these detailed models can be tedious and time-consuming.

With technological advancements, we have a more comprehensive range of tools, such as CNC milling machines, laser cutters, and 3D printers, that can easily enhance the speed and ensure better outcomes.

However, 3D printing teaches more than what meets the eye. Let’s explore the conceptual realms of this intriguing tool more holistically.

What are the crucial benefits of 3D Printing?

1. Better Production

3D Printing

Source: Connections by Finsa

Imagine printing huge architectural models or structures in short periods. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
Well, all thanks to 3D printing, the AEC industry can now relish faster production owing to the availability of completely automated and high-speed machines. Besides the time taken for production, the quality is also enhanced because of the eradication of human errors throughout the design, development, and manufacturing phases.

2. Cutting down on the wastage

Savings are always welcome, even when using materials in construction projects. But how does 3D printing help achieve maximum utilisation and minimum waste production?
3D Printing facilitates the reduction of material wastage while producing architectural models owing to how precisely the machines tackle the materials. Not just this, 3D printers can also make optimum use of recycled materials, thereby fusing functionality with efficiency.

3. Cost-effective procedure

Machine-oriented production means reduced material wastage and the involvement of fewer people in the manufacturing process. Both these aspects, put together, can bring down the costs considerably. Therefore, 3D printing is an effective procedure.

4. Paves the way for innovation

3D Printing architecture

Source: Canadian Architect

Apart from its myriad benefits, 3D printing is also well-known for the innovative solutions that it incorporates.
Through 3D printing, one can experiment with shapes and designs that aren’t just interesting and complex. Besides, it also enables the creation of customised structures that resonate with new-age architectural design.

Top 8 Examples of 3D-Printed Architectural Projects

1. Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya

Kakuma Refugee Camp_Kenya

Source: UN Women

Nestled in the natural realms of Kenya, the Kakuma Refugee Camp is inhabited by almost 2 lakh people. Even though, owing to its name, the project might sound like a temporary shelter, it is more of a city. This can be credited to facets such as security and privacy taught in its planning, material choice, views, etc.
Through 3D printing, the project was able to achieve its objectives within an efficient period. The aspects of customisation and future extension were also successfully catered to.

2. Project Milestone, The Netherlands

Project Milestone_The Netherlands

Source: 3D Printed House

Articulated as a part of the scheme that intends to put forward the world’s first 3D-printed houses as rental properties, Project Milestone creates a fantastic living experience for its residents.
Shaped like a massive boulder, this home was designed by the Dutch architecture studio Houben and Van Mierlo. The house infuses comfortable and habitable spaces consisting of a kitchen, a diner, a bedroom, and a bathroom.

3. Gaia, Italy


Source: Wired UK

Curated with a material palette encompassing local soil, chopped straws, and rice husks, Gaia is a house sprawling over 30 square metres in Italy.
The structural walls of the house were printed from the soil, while the cavities between them are filled with rice waste that acts as an insulating material. Within the interiors, the walls and ceilings are also covered with natural plaster.
The project puts together a home that isn’t a mere depiction of nature’s harmony with modern architecture. Instead, Gaia can quickly biodegrade and break down into the soil as if it’s a part of nature.

4. Thinking Huts, Madagascar

Thinking Huts_Madagascar_3d printing

Source: Designboom

Thinking Huts is a perfect example of how 3D printing can help bring offbeat architectural visions to life.
A modern amalgamation of architecture and nature, Thinking Huts encompasses a school building structured in Madagascar. The building is inspired by honeycomb and made of cement using a two-metre Hyperion arm.
With a capacity of 137 students, the school entails provisions of “additional pods” that can be used for expansion, all while keeping the surrounding flora and fauna intact.

5. Villaprint, Reims


Source: Champagne FM

Launched in 2018, Villaprint is a French beauty completed in June of 2022.
Owing to the tech-oriented tool of 3D printing, the construction of these awe-worthy houses that Villaprint comprises was concluded within 12 months instead of 16. Besides this, another fact associated with this project is that it encompasses the first five fully certified 3D-printed houses curated out of concrete in Reims.

6. 3D Printed Pavilion, Mexico

3D Printed Pavilion_Mexico

Source: Designboom

A subtle fusion of three ideologies: new-age technology, fine craftsmanship, and the power of recycling, this 3D-printed Pavilion in Mexico is truly a work of art.
The project offers holistic housing solutions catering to communities’ integrated and streamlined development. Local materials derived from the earth and sustainable techniques are pivotal in construction. Thereby, they put together an environment-sensitive structure.

7. Floating House, Czech Republic

Floating House, Czech Republic

Source: STIRworld

Acclaimed as the first authentic floating habitable structure obtained from concrete using the 3D printing process, Prvok was unveiled in the Vltava River in August 2020.
The house includes 43 square meters of floor space, including a bathroom, toilet, living room clubbed with a kitchen, and bedroom. Designed by the Czech-based sculptural architectural studio Scoolpt, this floating house is fabricated with eco-friendly technologies that help reduce carbon dioxide waste and emissions.

8. DFAB House, Switzerland

DFAB House, Switzerland

Source: Roman Keller

The flagbearer of what can be termed as “digital living”, the DFAB House in Switzerland is the world’s first inhabited house. Predominantly built in a digitalised way using robots and 3D printers, the project infuses a three-storey house that brings together newfangled digital solutions and a real-life living environment.

Welcoming a Revolutionised Way of Modelling

With its wide array of benefits, 3D printing has taken over the modelling industry when it comes to putting together cohesive, practical, time-efficient, and structured solutions in the AEC fraternity.
However, to delve into the know-how of the process and understand its various aspects, it is better to learn from the experts themselves. Workshops, tutorials, and masterclasses from Futurly can provide you with the required assistance and help hone your skills.

FAQs: 3D Printing Architecture

1. What is 3D printing?

3D printing is a technology-oriented process that helps in the seamless development of physical models and architectural structures. 

2. What are some benefits of 3D printing?

The following are some benefits of 3D printing: Better production, Reduced wastage, Ensures cost-effectiveness, and paving the way for innovation.

3. What are some technologies associated with 3D printing?

Some technologies are associated with 3D printing: Robotic arm extruders, Sand 3D Printing, and Metal Technology.

4. What are some examples of 3D-printed Architectural Projects?

Some examples of 3D-printed architectural projects are as follows: 

  • Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya
  • Project Milestone, The Netherlands
  • Gaia, Italy
  • Thinking Huts, Madagascar
  • Villaprint, Reims 

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Architectural Journalist

Saili Sawantt
An Architect + Writer, Saili has worked as an Architectural writer & brand storyteller. She has collaborated with firms, studios, organizations, luxury brands, events & educational institutions to communicate in the real estate & travel industry. Her recent initiatives include curating an online workshop on communication and networking within the AEC industry. She is a commentator on the design industry’s upkeep through her social handles and an avid reader and traveller.