I noticed an article today on the Discovery Channel online that illustrates how technology can cause major changes in the way things are done: GIANT MACHINE DESIGNED TO PRINT HOUSES.
April 3, 2007 — Hammering, sawing, drilling and bricklaying could one day be replaced with printing. A room-size machine currently being built by researchers in the U.K. will use rapid prototyping techniques to print walls, complete with brick, plaster, windows, insulation and conduits for wires and pipes.
The technique could make walls stronger and more functional, while at the same reducing construction waste, minimizing the amount of labor needed and liberating the building’s form.
“Maybe straight is not always the best shape. You can build a flat or curvy place and there is no more expense involved,” said Richard Buswell, lecturer for civil and building engineering at
Buswell and his team are embarking on a four-year project to build the 13- by 16.4-foot-sized printer, which will borrow techniques from rapid prototyping processes currently used to produce items made of ceramics, polymers and metals. … The machine will either squeeze out the moist material like toothpaste from a tube or it work like a large ink-jet printer head to place drops of the material in the precise location. The material will be designed to harden in the air and will not require a laser to fuse the layers together …
The article goes on to say that the British building industry is established and traditional and may not readily accept such new-fangled contraptions. But if the machine builds houses that cost less and last longer and keep the elements and insects out better than traditional building methods, its time will come.
Looking ahead a few years, suppose you could rent a house printing machine from your local home improvement center and purchase a template for a house, along with bags of powdered material that will be poured into the machine and extruded to form walls, plumbing system, and so forth. The template is contained on something resembling a flash drive. With the proper equipment to bypass copy-protection, dishonest vendors can copy templates and sell them for half or less of the normal retail sales price.
To see the sorts of ownership issues that can arise under such circumstances, you don’t need a time machine or crystal ball. You can simply hang out in Second Life.
To be continued