First, there were curios. Jewellery and engineering tools followed. After a string of other objects, we now have 3D-printed houses. A private firm in China has gone ahead and printed whole houses using the 3D printing technology. WinSun used four 10 m x 6.6 m printers to spray a mixture of cement and construction waste to print 10 full-sized single-storey houses in a day, reports the BBC. No manual labour and cheap materials used kept the cost of each house under $5,000.
All this points at one thing—there is little one can’t get off 3D printing. So, it is a welcome thing that from being beta a couple of years ago, 3D printing is pacing towards becoming mainstream. The International Data Corporation finds it is poised for phenomenal growth—the 2012-17 revenue growth for the 3D printer market, the Corporation predicts, will be 29%. The boom would mean revival for some of the traditional hardware players, whose sales had gone cold in the past half a decade or so. HP is set to enter the market sometime this year. Konica Minolta has already made its foray. On the demand side, individual consumers, analysts hold, would be a small fragment of the overall market—‘anyone printing anything out of her home’, therefore, could be just hype. But the thing to look forward to would be the new businesses the technology spawns and the outlook already seems promising—SOLS, a shoe insole printing start-up, has recently raised over $6 million; WinSun’s project would seem worthy to someone in the affordable housing business.