SOLARPUNK GIGAMOLD - PART 1: THE DREAM
In order to entertain one plausible path to a Solarpunk Future, let us first entertain 3 elementary truths.
Elementary Truth 1:
America is short millions of homes with homelessness on the rise in major cities like Los Angeles. Other than permitting & zoning, one of the reasons homes are so expensive is because it's so labor-intensive to build a home (manually building out the foundation, framing, wall, electrical, plumbing, roof, & etc). Furthermore, most young people could not realistically ever afford to own a home (or raise a family) within their lifetime.
Elementary Truth 2:
The way we make things really cheap is via molds. Mold is why a box of plastic forks costs only $1. In fact, after reasoning up from first principles about why toy cars are so cheap (hint: mold), Elon Musk decided to implement the GigaPress (the world's largest diecast molding machine) so that he could get rid of almost 300 industrial robots. And dramatically cut down on both production time & production cost in the process.
Elementary Truth 3:
3D printing is the cheapest way to make 1 to 10 copies of something. And molds are custom one-off things. Furthermore, the production of mold assets via traditional methods is extremely time-consuming & expensive. This is why people can self-fund software ideas in their bedrooms. But people have to dip into their life savings or seek out investors to capitalize the volume production of their hardware ideas.
The Crazy Idea:
What if we could 3D print giant modular reusable molds & cast an entire house in a single day, bypassing hundreds of hours of specialized trade skills in the process? Just like how Tesla's GigaPress could cast an entire car chassis in a single shot, bypassing hundreds of industrial robots in the process. For lack of a better term, let's call this the GigaMold (until we can think of something more original).
While we wouldn't say no to investors (particularly if they are really cool), we are also not actively seeking funding. This is because we believe we can actually bootstrap this seemingly moonshot idea if we merely broke it down into 3 highly executable stages (almost like the 3 acts of an epic video game).
Phase 1: Larger & Larger Custom Cement Things
Before we can change the world, we must first perfect the technology by making progressively larger & larger custom cement things. At first, it will start with small soap dishes & bonsai pots since they are so fast & cheap to iterate through. But very quickly, we want to work our way up to giant custom concrete planters & trashcans since they are so profitable.
Phase 2: Sheds, Camp Grounds, & Large Iconic Art
Once we gain sufficient confidence in the basics of molding protocol (flexible TPU molds, hard PETG multipart molds, cement multi-component assemblies, & the practical material science of cement composites), we want to make house size things that people can actually interact with & thus become emotional about that doesn't require extensive permitting. This could include sheds, campsite cement domes, or even gigantic cement art.
It is important to note that when we say "cement", we really mean geopolymer (think pyramid) & other cement-like things. As anyone in the 3D printed house community will tell you, while 3D printing is kind of exciting, the material science around geopolymers & other future building materials is what's really exciting. We might start with cement since it's familiar to the general public. But we definitely won't just end there is what I'm saying.
Phase 3: Houses (Hippie Earthships)
Once the general public is both comfortable & excited about crazy-looking & crazy-affordable giant cement things that can be pulled out of a 3D printed mold, naturally they will wonder: "Could this GigaMold idea really deliver us an affordable sustainable future?"
To be honest, I am not sure... But I guess there's only 1 way to find out.
"Brilliant thinking is rare. But courage is in even shorter supply than genius." -- Peter Thiel