First 100% bio-based 3D-printed home unveiled at the University of Maine

The first totally bio-based 3D-printed home, BioHome3D, was unveiled on November 21 by the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center (ASCC). The UMaine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Hub and Spoke initiative of the US Department of Energy provided financing for the creation of BioHome3D. MaineHousing and the Maine Technology Institute were partners.

The 3D-printed wood fiber and bio-resin walls, flooring, and roof of the 600 square foot prototype. The home is completely recyclable, has a high R-value of 100% wood insulation, and is strongly insulated. The printing technology’ accuracy allowed for almost complete elimination of construction waste.

The University of Maine is stepping up once more to demonstrate that we can face these major difficulties with hallmark Maine innovation, according to Governor Janet Mills. “Our state is confronting the perfect storm of a housing crisis and workforce scarcity,” she added. “UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center is thinking imaginatively about how to address the housing crisis, enhance the forest products sector, and provide individuals with a secure place to live so they can contribute to our economy using its unique BioHome3D technology. Even while there is still more to be done, today’s development is a step in the right direction, and I was delighted to support it through my budget and the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan. I congratulate and appreciate the University of Maine and its collaborators, and I look forward to continuing to find creative answers to these difficulties.
There is a severe lack of affordable housing in the United States, particularly in Maine. More than 7 million affordable housing units are required nationwide, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. According to the Maine Affordable Housing Coalition, there is a shortage of 20,000 housing units in Maine alone, and that number is increasing every year. In Maine, more than 60% of renters who are low-income pay more than half of their salary for housing. The dual problems of a labor scarcity and material price hikes brought on by the supply chain intensify this precarious scenario.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, Jeff Marootian, acting chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Energy’s office of energy efficiency and renewable energy, Rebecca Isacowitz, acting director of the DOE’s advanced manufacturing office Steve McKnight, and Xin Sun, associate laboratory director for energy science and technology, were also present at the unveiling ceremony in addition to Mills. The leaders went on a tour of ASCC, spoke, and took part in the ribbon-cutting event. Legislators, housing activists, developers, and students from Maine’s high schools and universities were also there.

Sen. Collins said that the University of Maine “continues to exhibit its global leadership in innovation and scientific research” with the fabrication of the first-ever 3D-printed home constructed from reclaimed forest materials. “The perseverance and skill of Dr. Habib Dagher, his group, and students at the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center enabled this incredible feat. They deserve praise for opening up this fresh market for Maine’s forest products business, which might help solve the housing crisis we are now experiencing. Their innovative effort will establish the groundwork for future affordable home developments and support the creation of new employment throughout our state.

The technology is intended to address the supply chain problems and workforce constraints that are pushing up costs and limiting the availability of affordable housing. Due to the utilization of automated manufacturing and off-site production, less time is needed to construct and furnish the home on-site. Utilizing wood fiber as a printing feedstock that is readily available, renewable, and locally supplied decreases reliance on a limited supply chain. These products are more resistant to labor shortages and global supply chain shocks, and they help to revive regional forest product businesses.

Future low-income homes may be tailored to a homeowner’s needs for space, energy efficiency, and aesthetics using the cutting-edge manufacturing techniques and materials created at UMaine. Importantly, homeowners may anticipate quicker delivery timelines as manufacturing technologies and material production are scaled up.

According to UMaine President Joan Ferrini-Mundy, “We are finding solutions here at ASCC to the pressing problems that our world and Maine face, through research on transformative offshore wind technology, next-generation solutions for transportation infrastructure, advanced forest products, large-scale 3D printing, and of course, affordable housing.” The work done in this lab “certainly embodies the work of a land grant institution, an institution founded to assist solve issues and enhance the economic development of the state of Maine in conjunction with the people of Maine. I am really delighted to mention this lab as the location of that very activity.

In order to evaluate how well BioHome3D works during a Maine winter, the prototype is now installed on a foundation outside ASCC and fitted with sensors for thermal, environmental, and structural monitoring. The data gathered is anticipated to be used by researchers to enhance next designs.

Four modules of BioHome3D were manufactured, relocated to the location, and put together in less than a day. Only one electrician was required on site, and electricity was up and operating in less than two hours.

In contrast to BioHome3D, most technologies being researched to 3D print dwellings use concrete. On top of a normally cast concrete foundation, however, are merely the concrete walls. The roof is finished with conventional wood framing or wood trusses, according to ASCC executive director Dagher. The complete BioHome3D was printed, including the floors, walls, and roof, in contrast to the existing technology. Because the biomaterials are entirely recyclable, even our great-grandchildren will be able to reuse BioHome3D.

“The Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office of the DOE will support these kinds of public-private partnerships in order to promote innovation in our manufacturing sector. According to Marootian, who is also a candidate for assistant secretary of the DOE, these collaborations between business, academia, government, and our national labs have ushered in crucial new technologies that are lowering emissions, increasing efficiency, and strengthening, resiliency, and sustainability of our manufacturing.

Nearly 40% of the world’s carbon emissions are attributed to buildings, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Fiber made from sustainably produced trees absorbs carbon during the tree life cycle and is a renewable resource. As a carbon storage and sequestration unit both during its useful life and after recycling, BioHome3D may be viewed as such.

Strong relationships inside and outside of the University of Maine community have produced this initiative. The Hub and Spoke Program, a collaboration between UMaine and Oak Ridge National Laboratory supported by the DOE, is in charge of conducting research and developing sustainable, affordable bio-based 3D printing feedstock alternatives, including the substance utilized in BioHome3D. The Hub and Spoke program is a direct result of a request made in 2016 by Senators Collins and Angus King for the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Assessment team to assist Maine in boosting the forest economy and creating jobs and opportunities in rural areas of the state in the wake of the closure of several significant paper mills.

In the field of large-scale, bio-based 3D printing, the Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, a pioneer in advanced manufacturing, and UMaine, home to ASCC, the Forest Bioproducts Research Institute, and the School of Forest Resources, are natural partners. The Maine Technology Institute assisted with the prototype’s design, and MaineHousing was a significant collaborator in creating and assessing the home’s specs in accordance with low-income housing regulations.

The ability of scientific cooperation to solve urgent national requirements is demonstrated by this initiative, according to Sun. We have jointly accomplished an important milestone in the development of sustainable materials and manufacturing technologies, as well as the decarbonization of the buildings sector, by combining the skills and facilities of ORNL with UMaine’s experience and desire for innovation.

Advances in large-scale additive manufacturing and novel bio-based material chemistries that have resulted from these collaborations have enabled this endeavour.

“This project provides us a genuine chance to do something that has evaded us up until now, and that is production speed, the ability to mass construct homes in a very short amount of time. … We’ve never seen efficiency like the concept that we can build homes in a small fraction of the time with a small fraction of the manpower. In addition to dramatically stretching our limited state and federal resources, it will also promptly meet the needs of individuals in our state who are most in need, according to MaineHousing director Daniel Brennan.

The ASCC has a track record of superiority in advanced manufacturing, design, and modeling, which is strengthened by the successful print of BioHome3D. The prototype was created using the biggest polymer 3D printer in the world, which was also used to create the largest 3D-printed boat in 2019.

With the launch of the Green Engineering and Materials (GEM) research Factory of the Future, ASCC will be able to scale up its advanced manufacturing research in house building. GEM will operate as a center for large-scale digital hybrid manufacturing with AI once it is finished. The Factory of the Future, which includes bays devoted to scaling up the production of housing, like BioHome3D, as well as boatbuilding, an important Maine industry, will propel innovation-led economic recovery in Maine.

The GEM facility’s preparation of the workforce of the future through world-class immersive educational opportunities at the intersection of engineering and computing is a key component. The university’s plan to establish the new Maine College of Engineering, Computing and Information Science (MCECIS), which combines education and research in engineering and computing, is centered on GEM. The new GEM facility will be similar to a teaching hospital in the medical field for engineering and computing, where students in engineering, computing, and information science learn by working in the lab alongside top-notch faculty and staff. The Harold Alfond Foundation and UMS TRANSFORMS are supporting this initiative, which aims to double the output of engineers and computing and information scientists in order to meet the state’s workforce needs.

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy asserts that “workforce and economic development are essential components of ASCC’s world-class research.” “Our state and federal policymakers are aware that supporting Maine’s research university is a wise investment for the future of the state. We value the opportunity to continue demonstrating a return on investment through initiatives like BioHome3D and students receiving hands-on training today to carry on the work tomorrow, as well as the shared vision.

Already, $25 million in direct investment has been secured for GEM, including $10 million in the FY22 federal budget thanks to funding requested by Sens. Collins and King, and $15 million through the Maine Jobs & Recovery Plan, the proposal put forth by Gov. Mills and supported by the Maine Legislature to invest the state’s share of federal American Rescue Plan relief funds. Sens. Collins and King are pushing for nearly $40 million in additional federal funding for the project.

The Advanced Structures and Composites Center, which focuses on material sciences, advanced manufacturing, and the engineering of composites and structures, is a leading international interdisciplinary center for research, education, and economic development. The center, which occupies a 100,000 square foot facility with ISO-17025 accreditation, has received national and international recognition for its cutting-edge research initiatives that are influencing and advancing new industries, such as civil infrastructure, large-scale 3D printing, soldier protection systems, offshore wind and marine energy, and innovative defense-related applications.

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