First I would like to thank Volker Ruitinga for taking a leap of faith in permitting me to record this discussion even though it is the first long-form discussion that I have posted publicly.
Volker is the founder of Vertico, a startup in the Netherlands that uses a large robotic arm to 3D print in concrete. As you could imagine with a focus like that they have many interesting projects. They’ve printed concrete canoes, benches, vases, and have an exciting upcoming project to build a house, but many of the details on that are still under wraps.
Even though Volker did not major in engineering in university, he discovered an intrigue for 3d printing when he helped facilitate the sale of a robotic arm from an automobile manufacturer he worked for to a company interested in using the robotic arm for 3D printing. His initial interest in large scale printing was with plastics but since then he has switched to concrete, finding it to be more practical.
There were two major takeaways for me in this conversation, the importance of a quality concrete mixing pump, and the promising future of parametric design.
Vertico is on their second version of their printer, a change they made to increase the build size the machine is capable of. The extruder portion of the printer has been updated many times and now they are using a multi material extruder in order to make their process more effective. Volker made it clear that the pump was a challenge for them at one point, the commercial pumps available to them at the time were not sufficient for this application so Vertico was forced to design their own smart-pump that includes more control over the flow and speed of the pump. By using their custom pump they are able to switch between different concrete mixes seamlessly.
Vertico is not just a hardware company, the software feats they are accomplishing are equally important but it is hard for people to see the software advancements going on behind the scenes to make the builds you see possible. Volker ran a hackathon in order to build an open source code for slicing stl files into printable gcode that is available for free to anyone wanting a place to start with 3D printing in concrete.
At this time, Vertico is selective on what they focus on and choose to be experts in hardware, pumps, and software. They have chosen not to focus on materials and permitting yet but they keep a keen eye on the developments that organizations are making in this sector.
Like most companies in the emerging sector of 3DCP, Vertico is a developing startup and their pace of progress is rapid because they are agile. It will be very exciting to see the progress that they make in the future.
Check out the full 1hr 20 minute conversation at the link below.