3D Printed Buildings Can Improve the Planet, says Google's Eric Schmidt
The future of the earth and of mankind is a very topical right now, with movies depicting dystopian futures and technologists focusing on the the world's complete digital integration. All perspectives are currently being discussed at the prestigious Milken 2016 Global Conference in Beverly Hills, where more than 3,500 prominent politicians, technologists and celebrities have assembled.
Among them is Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, who showcased the six ‘moonshot’ initiatives he believes will change the world in the long term. Among them is the adoption of 3D printing by the construction industry.
Schmidt’s presentation was one of the most anticipated events at the Milken 2016 Global Conference, but there was a lot more to see and do at the Beverly Hills event. For instance, former vice-president Al Gore talked about climate change, while IBM’s vice-president Guru Banavar showcased their Watson software platform as an assisting tool for CEOs. Other presentations focused on the Internet of Things, gene editing, the Mission to Mars, human connections in a digital world, and much more.
But Schmidt’s presentation was seen by many as one of the most impactful, as it focused on the entirety of human progress. “The best way to predict the future is to invent it,” he said, explaining why he believed just a few innovations could fundamentally change the future. Aside from 3D printed buildings, his so-called ‘moonshot initiatives’ are: a transition from meat-based diets to vegetable-based diets, the integration of virtual reality into society, opening up medical data through sensors and smartphones, the development of self-driving cars, and a tech-focused overhaul of education.
Many of these are staple innovations in futurist presentations; decreasing our reliance on livestock will, for example, decrease the strain on the environment. But it is very interesting that he chose to include 3D printing construction on that list. Of course 3D printing as a whole is often listed among breakthrough technologies - Gartner called it one of the ten strategic technology trends of 2016.But of all the possible 3D printing applications, Schmidt argued that 3D printed homes and buildings can have the biggest economic impact.
As the Alphabet CEO told listeners in Beverly Hills, construction represents five percent of the economy, and that entire segment can be made cheaper, more efficient and superior when it begins to integrate 3D printing. Right now, construction is time-consuming, energy-intensive, wasteful and costly, he argued. Through 3D printing, however, construction times could be decreased dramatically, and almost every structure could be made from recycled materials. What’s more, construction would be far more efficient if production took place on site. These innovations would not only decrease construction costs dramatically, but would also significantly decrease the construction industry’s carbon footprint. Construction-based 3D printing, it seems, should not be underestimated.