3D Printing

Can 3D Printing With Soybean Create Truly Affordable Housing

You might be among the many who do not understand exactly how anyone could eat tofu, nevertheless you are probably already aware of the great potential that soy based materials hold in terms of functional properties and environmental sustainability. Perhaps though you did not think that soy bean could be used in housing and, most of all, that the material made with it could be stronger than reinforced concrete.

Currently soy is used as a highly efficient concrete sealant, however Sofoklis Giannakoupoulous, a researcher at Barcelona’s IaaC (the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia) is working on a soybean based material that could be extruded — or 3D printed — to make structures that are more solid than concrete.

Soybean 3D Printer Kuka

The research is ongoing but at last week’s 3D Printshow in London, Giannakoupoulous was exhibiting the material, a soybean based brownish looking powder, and the Kuka robotic arm that could be used to extrude it and build with it, through Kuka’s advanced computerized control system.

Sofoklis, who is also in direct contact with D-shape’s Enrico Dini, intends to use this new material to build large, solid housing structures. Although it might seem absurd, I was actually able to feel the material at the stand and it seemed at least comparable with concrete, impossible to crumble up in any way. Obviously, this was not a structural test!

soybean 3d printing

The best part is that if successful (proper!) testing was achieved, it would also be significantly cheaper than concrete, not just in economic terms as much as in environmental costs. That does not mean indiscriminate soybean cultivation is fully sustainable. In many countries it is one of the main reasons for deforestation, however using it to build housing and thus growing it on location would optimize its benefits, while mitigating the environmental risks posed by excessive concrete production.