While using basic technology may still cause daily grief for some, the industry is moving in leaps and bounds, with progress being made in alternative, and somewhat surprising, domains.

With these advances in technology and the advent of 3D printing, it has now become possible to print a building - a development that's caused a stir in the construction business for various reasons, including potential disruptions in multiple global supply chains.

Known in the trade as "additive manufacturing", 3D printing was first developed in the 1980s. Due to more sophisticated types of printers, we can now print things like houses, clothes and spare parts for planes. Artificial limbs and internal organs are also among the latest list of uses for 3D printing. 

[3D printing in manufacturing] suits itself quite well to disaster areas or developing nations where the houses can be built very rapidly and built with a minimum of skills. All you actually need is the skilled people to maintain the printer.

Simon Hart, senior innovation lead, Innovate UK

Ultimately, not only could this manufacturing method revolutionise the way global goods are made, but some say it could even change how we live and construct homes. Advocates believe low-cost 3D homes could even help end homelessness, and in an eco-friendly manner. 

So how do you print a house? And what are the potential implications for global economics and trade?

Simon Hart, senior innovation lead in smart infrastructure at Innovate UK, talks to Counting the Cost.

"The technology is relatively mature on a smaller scale," says Hart. "Small-scale domestic 3D printers have been available, even for home use, for many years. What you're doing with a large scale 3D printer is extending the size and scale of the printer. One fundamental difference is that domestic printers will use plastic ... with houses, using concrete, for example, you have to wait for that to set before you lay the next layer." 

"3D printing [in construction] is relatively new so the testing is yet to be done. One of the challenges is the longevity, the durability of 3D-printed structures - particularly in areas of harsh climate ... flooding and even earthquakes," Hart continues.

"It suits itself quite well to disaster areas or developing nations where the houses can be built very rapidly and built with a minimum of skills. All you actually need is the skilled people to maintain the printer. You are not looking at hiring hundreds and hundreds of bricklayers ... And a 3D printer can run 24/7."

"We've got a long way to go," says Hart. But he believes that "robotics being available relatively cheaply to a great number of people does have the ability to transform the way the industry operates."

Source: Al Jazeera