This 12 metre-tall (40ft) 3D printer could revolutionise house building. It might not be able to print out your typical two bedroom brick house, but it might be the key to quickly building homes using natural resources like clay and mud.
Dubbed ‘Big Delta’, it doesn’t look like the world’s largest 3D printer at first glance, let alone a machine that could build a house. But the hexagonal scaffolding supports a giant-sized extruder with a clever rotating nozzle. This mixes and extrudes printable material simultaneously, enabling structures to be built up layer by layer.
It’s a technique inspired by female potter wasps, which build pot-shaped nests for their young out of mud. You can see the Big Delta extruder in action in the video below.
Developed by WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project), who make a range of smaller 3D printers, Big Delta will sit at the heart of a technology development that is slowly rising up in Massa Lombarda, near Ravenna in Italy. The aim is to build an eco-friendly village that’s dedicated to 3D printing in all its forms.
In this village, “we’ll print houses and vertical vegetable gardens of different sizes,” explains WASP’s Massimo Moretti. “There will also be a laboratory for compact desktop printers to make [other] objects.” These will include furniture, jewellery and ceramics.
Big Delta won’t be the first 3D printer to attempt a house build. In 2014, Chinese company WinSun used a 20 foot-high 3D printer to squirt out a 12,000 square-foot luxury home. But the printer represents a way to construct houses at a low price, using locally sourced materials, in any part of the world.
Crucially, Big Delta aims to be a flexible 3D printer, allowing WASP to potentially build houses using a variety of materials. The structure is self-powered via several integrated solar panels, making it entirely independent.
WASP has also paid great attention to logistics, making its huge 3D printer easy to disassemble and transport wherever it is needed — the only moving element is the extruder. Unbelievably, it only takes three people two hours to assemble the machine.
With the Massa Lombarda project — dubbed Shambhalla — now underway, WASP hopes to encourage and develop the idea of the ‘Maker economy’. However, while most objects around us can now be 3D printed, sharing skills and technical know-how is a crucial part of the process. After all, today’s Makers are tomorrow’s innovators.
In a world where global population is growing exponentially, the demand for an accommodation is forever rising. Big Delta and 3D printing could provide homes at a low cost, using sustainable, locally sourced materials.
The goal of the Big Delta project is to give everyone the opportunity to live in a house. They don’t get much worthier than that.