For all of its progress, for all of its market growth and maturing capabilities, talk of 3-D printing still has to be tempered with cautions words like "potential" and "promise."
Things are changing, processes are being disrupted, manufacturing is being enhanced by additive manufacturing in big and exciting ways, but it’s still too early to declare the revolution begun.
And, for those of us waiting for these big changes, that can be frustrating. What we really want is to see a real disruption — one finished project that really disrupts something now and completely so we can watch its effect ripple through the industry.
Well, it looks like we have one.
Last month, Chinese architecture firm, Shanghai WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, used a massive, open-frame 3-D printer to churn out 10 (!) finished houses in one day. Better still, they are printed with an "ink" consisting largely of recycled construction materials for about $4,800 a piece.
For perspective. Australia's Financial Review compared this to the traditional building industry, which, it says, requires "anywhere from six to 20 tradesmen and women for 10 to 12 months to raise a [single] architect-designed house."
But now, one operator at one machine can churn out a neighborhood in a day, a village in a week, a city in the time it takes to build a single house the traditional way.
And that is exactly the kind of real-life example of time-saving, life-changing, Earth-saving, budget-saving disruption we've been waiting for.
The first installation will begin in Qingdao, Shandong Province, the company says. And from there, the world.