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UMaine Builds World's First 3D-Printed Home Built With Bio-Based Products

Mon January 09, 2023 - Northeast Edition #4
Designboom & UMaine

The world’s first 100 percent bio-based 3D-printed home — BioHome3D. (Image courtesy of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center)
The world’s first 100 percent bio-based 3D-printed home — BioHome3D. (Image courtesy of the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center)

The University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) is behind the building of BioHome3D, the world's first 3D-printed house made entirely with bio-based materials such as wood flour, or fine sawdust, mixed with a binder made from corn.

The unique structure was built on the UMaine campus, according to Designboom, an online magazine based in Milan, Italy.

Layer by layer, the wooden home in Maine was 3D printed using an industrial polymer printer at the ASCC where there was little to no construction waste due to the precision of the printing process. The 600-sq.-ft. residential prototype features 3D-printed floors, walls and roofs from wood fibers and bio-resins. In addition, the house is fully recyclable and highly insulated with 100 percent wood insulation.

The 3D-printed wood bonds the walls and the ceilings and forms a sloping curve designed to shelter the homeowners, Designboom noted. There is a living room, kitchen, bedroom and a dedicated workspace that shares the sleeping area.

Home Equipped With Thermal Sensors for Testing

BioHome3D is positioned on a foundation just outside the ASCC at the university and comes equipped with thermal, environmental and structural monitoring sensors to test how the prototype performs in frosty climates.

The accumulated data can aid UMaine researchers in tweaking the design and materials to allow for the production of future home designs that can adapt to changes in the weather. The university hopes the introduction of BioHome3D will serve as a potential solution to the growing housing crisis and labor shortage that the New England state is facing.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills, for one, believes the ASCC and its experimental home can help address these serious challenges

"With its innovative BioHome3D, UMaine's Advanced Structures and Composites Center is thinking creatively about how we can tackle our housing shortage, strengthen our forest products industry, and deliver people a safe place to live so they can contribute to our economy," she said in a recent statement. "While there is still more to be done, this development is a positive step forward."

Making Low-Income Homes Possible

BioHome3D uses the kind of technology that can alleviate labor shortages and supply chain issues that are driving inflated costs and constricting the supply of affordable housing. As UMaine's team puts it, there is less time needed for on-site building and fitting up the home because of the automated manufacturing that takes place off-site.

By using abundant, renewable and locally sourced wood fiber feedstock and the advanced manufacturing processes and materials developed at the university, future homebuilders could potentially reduce their dependence on a non-sustainable supply chain. That could make low-income homes more accessible and possible while being suitable to their owners' space needs and desires.

"Importantly, as the manufacturing technology and materials production are scaled up, homebuyers can expect faster delivery schedules," UMaine's ASCC noted on its website.

BioHome3D was developed with funding from the U.S. Department of Energy's Hub and Spoke program, a partnership initiated in 2016 between UMaine and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee. Other organizations involved include MaineHousing and the Maine Technology Institute.

ORNL awarded $7.6 million to the University of Maine System in December for Phase 3 of the Hub and Spoke Program. This phase will focus on continuing the development of sustainable, structurally reinforced materials while expanding into functionally modified bio-based materials using a wider range of materials, in addition to workforce development through a new Hub and Spoke program for undergraduates.

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