A muddy future: 3D printing a mud hut

From plastic to metal and from wood to food, many materials can be 3D printed to create all sorts of products with less waste. In architecture, 3D printing has made its entrance as well, creating houses made from plastic or concrete. However, neither material is completely sustainable and also not available everywhere. To create the opportunity for everyone in the world to construct cheap housing using local and eco-friendly materials, Italian 3D printer company WASP built a 3D printer capable of building with mud.

Mud and other forms of dirt have long since been used in the construction of buildings and still are in many parts of the world. It has a very good thermal inertia which guarantees in summer cool space and warm one in winter. Furthermore, dirt regulates the humidity as it absorbs the water from the air to release it when the weather is dry. This way, it keeps the percentage of humidity stable during night and day and in the different seasons.

During Maker Faire Rome, WASP demonstrated their mud 3D printer. The device is 6 metres (20 feet) tall, equipped with a composite of clay, sand and fibres. During the fair, which lasted 2 days, they created a 1 metre(3 feet) tall model. A real house would take a few weeks to build.

The model consists of trapezoidal trusses, forming a double layered, freestanding cylindrical structure. The model resembled its inspiration, the nests of the mud dauber wasp, which is also a nod to the company’s name.

The extruder can be assembled by 2 people in just 2 hours, as it is held together largely by racketing straps. As it utilises native materials, project scan be deployed quickly and efficiently. The transition from liquid to solid allows printing 60 centimetres (2 feet) high per day, up to a metre (3 feet) in summer.

Last year, WASP constructed a prototype house also using soil and straw. They printed 270 centimetres (8.9 feet) high wall, the costs totalling EUR 48 (USD 57), including energy and materials.

The company aims to build the actual first WASP house in Sardinia next year, due to the availability of wool, which is used as the fibrous binder in the mud.

Photos: WASP / Make