The University of Maine (UMaine) Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC) has unveiled ‘BioHome3D’ – the first 3D printed house made entirely with bio-based materials. BioHome3D was developed with funding from the US Department of Energy’s Hub and Spoke program between the UMaine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). Partners included MaineHousing and the Maine Technology Institute.
The 600-square-foot prototype features 3D printed floors, walls, and roof – made using wood fibers and bio-resins. The house is fully recyclable and highly insulated with 100% wood insulation and customizable R-values. Construction waste was nearly eliminated due to the precision of the printing process.
BioHome3D was printed in four modules, then moved to the site and assembled in half a day. Electricity was running within two hours with only one electrician needed on site. The prototype is currently sited on a foundation outside ASCC, equipped with sensors for thermal, environmental, and structural monitoring to test how BioHome3D performs through a Maine winter. Researchers expect to use the data collected to improve future designs.
“Our state is facing the perfect storm of a housing crisis and labor shortage, but the University of Maine is stepping up once again to show that we can address these serious challenges with trademark Maine ingenuity,” said Gov. Janet Mills. “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. While there is still more to be done, today’s development is a positive step forward – one that I was proud to support through my Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan and my budget,” said Governor Janet Mills.
Using the advanced manufacturing processes and materials developed at UMaine, future low-income homes can be customized to meet a homeowner’s space, energy efficiency, and aesthetic preferences. Importantly, as manufacturing technology and materials production are scaled up, homebuyers can expect faster delivery schedules.
“Many technologies are being developed to 3D print homes, but unlike BioHome3D, most are printed using concrete. However, only the concrete walls are printed on top of a conventionally cast concrete foundation. Traditional wood framing or wood trusses are used to complete the roof,” said Dr. Habib Dagher, Executive Director of ASCC. “Unlike the existing technologies, the entire BioHome3D was printed, including the floors, walls, and roof. The biomaterials used are 100% recyclable, so our great-grandchildren can fully recycle BioHome3D.”
Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, a leader in advanced manufacturing, and UMaine, home to ASCC, Forest Bioproducts Research Institute, and School of Forest Resources, are natural partners in the field of large-scale, bio-based 3D printing. The Maine Technology Institute supported the design of the prototype, and MaineHousing was a key partner in developing and reviewing the specifications for the home in alignment with low-income housing standards.
“This program shows the power of scientific collaboration to address critical national needs,” said Xin Sun, associate laboratory director for energy science and technology at the ORNL. “Uniting the capabilities and facilities of ORNL with UMaine’s expertise and drive for innovation, we have together achieved a significant milestone in the development of sustainable materials and manufacturing technologies, and decarbonizing the buildings sector.”
This effort has been made possible by advances in large-scale additive manufacturing coupled with innovations in bio-based material chemistries that have emerged from these partnerships.
The BioHome3D prototype was printed on the world’s largest polymer 3D printer (according to Guinness World Records), which, in 2019, was used to create the world’s largest 3D printed boat.