In the next 20 years, people may be able to print food, a Russian Academy of Science Professor Iskander Akhatov said – finally catching my attention.

I had been sitting in a round table discussion on how 3D printing can be used as an innovative tool to develop the nuclear power industry. For over an hour I had been hearing scientific talk about atoms and related chemical terms without really relating any of my faculties to the topic. Instead, the journalist in me was admitting the ‘noise’ in one ear and letting it out through another. I was lost!

Just as I was about to abandon the discussion to find another exhibition forum that would probably be within my level of comprehension, I heard this professor loud and clear.

“It would be possible for people to print food in the next 20 years.”

Now don’t judge me, even trees need food to survive. So I started picturing my little HP laserjet printer in my office back in Lusaka and thinking ‘I might have been underutilizing that gadget, there is potential food in there’.

Apparently, Prof Akatov was responding to a question by moderator Gary Pitch, a journalist of Nuclear Intelligence Weekly in the United States, who was keen to know the capabilities of technology in future.

“In 20 years, we may be able to print food,” Prof Akatov said as the entire audience burst into laughter – bringing me to the realization that the statement was pretty much impossible. But at least he got my attention now.

“I doubt such machines will be used at household level, maybe in their garages but people will definitely be able to print things like jewelry and we will see a lot of such things emerging,” he added.

I was suddenly enjoying the topic and my mind was even preparing some questions when the moderator announced that it was time up.

Coming from a country where texting is still amazing technology, I couldn’t help but turn to my laptop to Google what else these Russians have achieved with technology so far. Who knows maybe I could download fish and chips on my iPhone while in Moscow.

Well, I wasn’t far from the truth. A Russian company recently printed a house!!

Watch the video:

In simple terms, 3D printing is the processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control. Using this technology, Apis Cor Company successfully printed a 38 m² house as a demonstration project.

The machine printed the entire house in 24 hours, after which the printer was lifted out of the middle of the building with a crane.

The house cost $ 10,134 or $275 per square meter including windows, doors, wiring and finishing, which is very cheap by Russian standards. Although this particular house was small, the company claims that the printer is big enough to construct a 132m² building.

A 3D printed house by Nikita Chen-yun-tai

House-printing inventor Nikita Chen-yun-tai boasts, “We are ready to be first to start building on Mars”. Of course just going to Mars is a far-fetched dream for a Zambian who cant afford a house on Earth, but that’s not all his technology is offering.

“Our goal is to become the biggest international construction company to solve problems of accommodation around the globe. We plan to start printing houses in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Australia and AFRICA” – yes that’s where my landlord should get concerned. The day Nikita and his house printer will arrive in Zambia, I will definitely remind him of this trip and demand that I get the first penthouse.

But wait… this was supposed to be a Nuclear Expo, so I started looking back wondering how all this tied in with nuclear energy production.

Then I remembered that during the round table discussion earlier, Rosatom Innovations Division deputy director Aleksey Dub was mumbling something about how 3D printing increased efficiency in productivity.

“Today more and more technologies will be designed with the help of innovative ideas. Some cases make us to move forward from traditional manufacturing to production of new generation. The use of 3D printing can also produce complex objects like inner components of nuclear reactors. 3D printing makes it possible to increase efficiency of final products at the same time reducing time and resourcing,” I remembered Dub saying.

It then dawned on me: Nuclear energy experts want to tap into 3D printing to develop the nuclear energy power industry. Apparently, Russia’s State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom already uses industrial metal 3D printers for the country’s nuclear technology.

What can I say? Well done Russia for hosting a successful ATOMEXPO event. I wish the next event can be held in Zambia so that the Russian printing company can demonstrate its technology by printing several hydro power stations for our embattled ZESCO.