The Most Innovative 3D Printed House in the World

I’ve recently put out a video on my YouTube channel about the most innovative 3D printed house in the world. Of course every 3D printed house at this stage of the industry is innovative but the consideration in design and architecture that went into this project demonstrates a new level for digital fabrication of shelter. 

Mense-Korte is the architecture firm behind this project and COBOD manufactured the 3D printer that was used by the general contractor PERI. There was certainly an extensive education process to clearly illustrate the capabilities of the concrete printer to the architects. Mense-Korte brought outside the box thinking and detail oriented German engineering to the table. The longstanding debate of offsite vs onsite printing has been answered on this project that marries the benefits of both to compensate for some of the limitations of 3D printing concrete, mostly the fact that it can’t print in mid air. By printing certain components off site they were able to add overhangs and other features that couldn’t be printed in mid air on site. 

Other features of the building like a bath and a fireplace were also 3D printed into the building. There is a vast universe of unexplored potential implementing this technology and this project goes further than any other into new territories. As architects and construction firms figure out what should and should not be printed the efficiency of this technology is increasing even if we ignore improvements to the hardware or software itself. 

The on site portion of this project was done with a protective tent like structure around the building. A protective layer around the printer can make it much easier to maintain consistent temperature and humidity parameters, also mitigating any wind. Creating an environment in homeostasis makes the print process much smoother in terms of printed line aesthetics and the concrete cures stronger under optimal conditions which can be achieved in a closed environment. The real question is whether or not the benefits of the tent are worth the added expense. For this project it was because it is meant to showcase the state of the art in its best form. Other outdoors projects can have post processing like manually applied stucco or even alternative print heads COBOD has developed to give a smooth finish to the concrete. 

I believe architecture and design is one of the biggest missing links when it comes to implementing this technology on a massive scale and Mense-Korte is off to a great start. As more firms educate themselves on the possibilities of 3D printed construction we will only see better and better designs at increasing levels of efficiency. One of the most important areas this is happening is within the MEP (Mechanical Electrical Plumbing) systems. Making considerations for these things in advance means the printer can intentionally leave spacing where need be as opposed to cutting holes in drywall later on in the process. 

As this technology becomes more advanced ancillary products will emerge that take advantage of the layer by layer strategy 3D printers use. Every aspect of the home must be rethought and optimized for printing, things like electrical and plumbing should simply be placed where they belong at the proper stage of the print along with and reinforcement. This method could eliminate almost all the heavy lifting on the construction project besides the roof. 

For the latest updates on the best 3D printed construction projects happening around the world make sure to subscribe to my youtube channel at the link below

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Relativity Space 3D Prints Rocket Engines for Space ($500M Funded)

Relativity space is a 5 year old startup that just closed a $500 million dollar D round of funding. We are going to take a look at their 3D printed rocket engines and hear from CEO Tim Ellis along with critical employees Karin Kuo, David Lemier, Ryan Quinn, and Drew Hess. 

3D printing offers a familiar yet unique set of benefits in engine manufacturing. Most notably interior features can be highly customized in comparison to the limited capabilities of CNC. Intricate AI generated interior structures can even reduce the weight of the engine which increase fuel efficiency.

Relativity Space has been scaling up quickly and now aims to produce 1 engine per week. They have come a long way still pursuing their initial vision. I suspect it will not be long before shares of Relativity hit the public markets.

Some say simplicity is the penultimate goal of good engineering. Any software engineer will tell you more code doesn’t equal good code. The best can achieve more with less. Relativity space brings this principal into the hardware sector seeking to drastically reduce parts required for rockets built to reach outer space. 

The traditional model of building rockets involves high precision CNC subtractive manufacturing. Imagine an enormous block of metal chiseled into a desired rocket form, the biggest flaw in this method is inability to control interior features of the unit without post production processing and welding. Founder Tim Ellis realized in 2016 that 3D printing could eliminate the many flaws of CNC in rocket manufacturing, reducing waste and speeding up launch dates. Most importantly he realized nobody else was doing it!

With a cold call to Mark Cuban, Relativity raised an initial $500k seed round.

Through 2017 an additional $9.5M was raised in the A round.

March 27th, 2018 closed $35M B round.

October 1st, 2019 closed a $140M C round.

As of November 23rd, 2020 they have closed a 500M D round of funding led by Tiger Global Management with participation from new investors Fidelity Management & Research Company LLC, Baillie Gifford, ICONIQ Capital, General Catalyst, XN, Senator Investment Group, and Elad Gil. Existing investors participating in the round include BOND, Tribe Capital, K5 Global, 3L, Playground Global, Mark Cuban, Spencer Rascoff, and Allen & Company LLC, among others.

Part of the company vision is people beginning to occupy space with their technology. According to CEO Tim Ellis everything in space will need to be 3D printed. 

The Terran 1 is the payload rocket being developed by Relativity Space. A dedicated mission can be purchased for a cool $12M which can accommodate 1,250kg payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) or 950kg to Sun Synchronous Orbit (SSO). The rocket is 115.4 ft tall with a 7.5 ft diameter. The first stage occupies 55.7 of the vertical ft with 9 Aeon 1 engines for a total of 228,600 lbf-vac fueled by liquid natural gas and liquid oxygen. The second stage is smaller, only 37.4ft tall with a single Aeon Vac Engine.

As mentioned earlier the Aeon engines are 3D printed reducing the total parts required for a spacecraft engine to under 1,000 as opposed to the 100,000+ part engines used in the past. Any time you can reduce parts required by magnitudes the savings are immense. This strategy is similar to an approach Tesla has been claiming to aim towards for a long time. Currently cars are made of a ton of different parts, Tesla aims to use injection molding to build an entire car chassis in one shot. The cyber truck utilizes steel origami for its structural one piece internal/external frame. Relativity space uses 3D printing because it allows customizability between engines. They can easily make slight modifications which will maximize efficiency for any particular mission. Further missions with heavier payload have different demands than small low earth orbit satellites. 

The 3D printer they developed for rocket printing purposes is called Stargate. It is a robotic arm that 3D prints a custom metal alloy. 

At this exciting stage of the technology it is certain many efficiencies and new strategies are being realized on a regular basis. With their recent $500M round of funding they will certainly accelerate space travel. Having already partnered with NASA, who knows which space spheroid they’ll be printing on next. 

Ali Mustapha on the Biggest 3D Printed Building in the World with Apis Cor Printer

https://youtu.be/K7VLsC8jA2E

Recently I had the pleasure of having Ali Mustafa on the automated construction podcast to talk about his involvement as project manager on the Biggest 3D printed building in the world which was built in Dubai. This Large 10,000 sqft building set the Guinness world record for the biggest 3d printed building back in 2017, a record which has not been beaten since. 

The project was completed using an apis cor printer operated by 3 people on site. 

Many people are aware that Dubai has outwardly spoken about an initiative to increase the use of 3D printing in construction. Because of this expressed interest, there are now a handful of buildings in Dubai constructed using 3d printing. 

Dubai has so much innovative construction pushing the limits of engineering. The well known Burj kalifa is the tallest building in the world. The speed at which the city of Dubai rose from the desert shows the speed at which they build and Ali believes that 3D printing will accelerate the building process further. 

You may be wondering how such a small printer can build such a large building. The key lies in its manageable size. It is a small unit that does not require tedious assembly on site unlike the larger gantry style printers. This unit functions like a robotic arm extending its nozzle from a central point. Need to build bigger than its radius? No problem. Simply move the printer to the next point on the build and resume printing. 

Apis Cor is currently working on a project in Louisiana where they are hoping to complete 2 big firsts. If successful, their project will be the first regularly permitted building in America and also the first 2 story 3D printed house in America. All the other 3D printed houses currently completed in America have had special circumstances around them making their construction possible. Once there is a precedent in the permitting system it will become significantly easier to win permits in the future. Many potential buyers are dissuaded by the concept of 3D printing a building because they fear the permitting issue, once more projects have been completed that fear will dwindle down and the industry will move into a more mature stage. 

During the construction process Apis Cor will be doing an instructional workshop on printer operation for companies that have put a $3000 down payment on the Apis Cor printer. The potential for an event like this is exponential because the number of people with a deep understanding of the tech will drastically increase. At this point, education is one of the most critical aspects of growing the automated construction space. The most fun part of my job is being surrounded by brilliant forward thinking risk takers. Everyone involved in the construction innovation revolution shares a common willingness to challenge the status quo and tackle the most critical issues head on. 

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Reflection on discussion with Henrik Lund-Nielsen CEO of COBOD

I finally got the chance to talk with Henrik Lund Neilsen the CEO and Founder of COBOD. After automation caught his interest, Henrik personally went on a world tour of 35 3D printing companies that he was able to compare and contrast in his pursuit of bringing this technology to a bigger scale in the construction industry. After this grant funded journey, COBOD emerged with the BOD and eventually BOD 2 concrete 3D printer. 

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COBOD has a unique value proposition for their customers seeking to gain a competitive edge in the construction industry. 3D printing addresses the labor shortage in the construction industry that makes some regions very expensive to build in. On top of that, speed and reliability are two major advantages 3D printing can offer as well. Construction is multifaceted with each facet behaving slightly differently depending on location. In some regions of the world labor is cheap but the people may be unreliable, other areas the labor can be 10x more expensive and even more unreliable! Long term automation and technology offer a solution to the reliability problem. Construction automation seeks to mend the reputation of over budget over schedule construction projects that the world has become so used to. If you’ve got a contractor that always sticks to the schedule don’t loose their number any time soon there is still a ways to go before 3D printing is ubiquitous.

Henrik ensures that any modifications to the printer will be made retroactively available for existing customers. This is a strategy shared by another 3D printing company ‘Prusa’. It is a relief to see some construction 3D printing companies taking notes from the forward thinking printing companies rather than the traditional printer models where the profit is all in the ink. Unlike many other companies COBOD chooses to be material agnostic without a restrictive warrantee. 

Without going into too much detail, Henrik told me they have developed a ‘magic’ material that can make regular concrete buildable. This method requires 1% additional material added to the regular mix. Unlocking the solution to a more affordable buildable concrete will have an enormous impact on the economic feasibility of 3D printed concrete. 

Henrik wanted to stress the importance of scale when printing concrete. There is benefit to allowing more time between layers so when you are using a tiny 3’x 3’x 3’ concrete printer then you may only have 30 seconds between each layer. Scaling up to 40’x 50’ + yields significantly more space to print thus increasing time to complete each layer ultimately makes the entire process more efficient. Some projects take longer than others, we briefly discussed how some projects aimed for a 24 hr print time whereas others choose to spend months on a print in order to academically dissect and observe the process. Like every person I’ve spoken to pioneering this novel industry, Henrik is not shy to admit progress and improvements are being made with every build. Very soon larger multifamily developments will test the potential of automation and if they demonstrate favorable economic viability we’ll start to see similar projects pop up all over the world. 

First Ever 3D Printed House for Sale Listed on Zillow for $299,000 USD

SQ4D has developed their own concrete 3D printer. As you can see from my first video below at one of their builds, their printer is a collapsible gantry system on rails. It is very unique because of its ability to mechanically collapse itself for ease of transport and disassembly. They do not publicly disclose whether or not this printer is for sale but they have boldly become the first company to publicly list a 3D printed house for sale. They were able to do so because the permits for the building have been granted by the local municipality. The biggest accomplishment will be an Occupancy Certificate that will be granted after all of the inspections have been passed during the construction process. There are a few companies actively pursing the first Occupancy Certificate for a 3D printed house so the race is on to see who is able to complete construction with a passing grade first.

Almost a year ago I was able to find the location of an experimental 3D printed house that was under construction by SQ4D. That 1,900 sqft home evidently only cost them $6000 in materials   according to their website sq4d.com which seems incredibly affordable. It is very possible that they have gone back to the drawing board since that build to make improvements to the material which could potentially drive up the price by multiples. Overall 41% of the construction was done by the ARCS 3D Printer they developed which led to an overall savings of 30%. Generally speaking a new product should be at least 25% better than the incumbent solution so this 30% reduced cost prediction bodes very well for the future of the industry.

I’ve visited this project a few times as they made progress on the build. The concrete walls were done before I got there, it was the manual labor (Roof, Windows, Doors, Gutter, Siding) that took the longest. Last time I was inside I saw that some of the walls had been smoothed out with concrete to give the interior a flat finish. For many people, the ability to hide the fact that the home was printed makes it much more appealing although personally I appreciate the raw nature of the exposed concrete. 

Their newest project to be constructed is a 1,500 sqft 3 bedroom 2 bathroom house. SQ4D is offering a 50 year limited warrantee on the build which is incredible considering that it is the first time a 3D printed house has ever been listed for sale. It is certainly understandable for a buyer to be wary of a new technology so this warrantee is a very important demonstration of SQ4D taking accountability for their work which helps the pioneering buyer be more confident in their decision. The home will also feature a 750 sqft 3D printed garage to match. 

List price has been set to $299,000. According to zillow the average home in this neighborhood is worth $394,000 so it is very likely the house will sell over list price especially in the current housing market where the supply has been low and prices have been increasing. 

It will be very interesting to follow along this project as SQ4D makes history. 0 to 1 is the hardest step in an emerging industry, it is a sure sign of some very exciting builds to come. It is very challenging for people to get out there and be the first in anything but after the first bushwhacking pioneers make it through the rough patches early adopters start to pour in. As exposure and footprint of this technology increases so will its capabilities. Economies of scale will make this already cost saving technique vastly more efficient as competition increases on all fronts, hardware, software and material. If you’d like to stay up to date on what I learn about this industry, subscribe on YouTube or the email list on www.automate.construction

Zillow Listing: https://www.zillow.com/homes/34-Millbrook-Ln-Riverhead,-NY,-11901_rb/2075583035_zpid/

SQ4D Website: https://www.sq4d.com/portfolio-items/our-next-print/

3D Printed Building in Florida by Printed Farms using a COBOD BOD 2 Printer

Printed farms is a construction start up that has recently purchased the first COBOD BOD 2 printer in America. This gantry style system has been seen in Europe and was used by Kamp C to build a 2 story demo house there. The same system is also being used to build another 2 story home and also a 5 unit apartment complex. 

I got the unique opportunity to be on site as Printed Farms began construction of their first building. The financier of the project decided their first build would be a 30×30 tractor shed. In Florida the hurricanes can have extremely high wind speeds. Fortunately the printed concrete is very sturdy with a strength over 5000 psi. 

Although Printed Farms is a relatively new start up their founders Jim Ritter and Fredrik Wannius are not new to construction. They have financed construction projects across a range of uses and realized in that process how inefficient traditional construction models can be. Many of these struggles relate to organizing the large team of people that it takes to construct a building especially with the ongoing shortage of manual labor in many regions. Reducing manpower needed for the job is only a small part of the benefits realized with 3D printed construction technology. Data is everything and when you have a BOD 2 system plugged into a laptop onsite you have full control of the project at your fingertips. 

The printer is equipped with various sensors to improve ease of use but it still requires some training to operate. If the ground or slab that you’re printing on is uneven, the BOD 2 is able to compensate for those irregularities, there is also a sensor in the extruder portion of the printer that alerts the concrete pump to send more through the hose. Generally the COBOD team would come out to train the print operator in person but due to typical 2020 complications the training process was completed online. Fredrik has become very competent with the massive 3D printer and feels like the online training was very good although he still collaborates with the COBOD team if he has any questions. 

Printing outside exposed to the elements was a substantial feat achieved in this build. Many projects have needed protective tents surrounding them in order to maintain specific temperatures and humidity. When you need to build a temporary structure around an entire construction site things start to get expensive with the current solutions. Floridas natural climate allowed for this project to be completed outside. 

Printed Farms has many fascinating projects in the pipeline that Fredrik discusses in the video. Although most of the printing is currently experimental, 3D printing in construction is at a transformative stage and soon its products will become consumer facing. 

12 Steps to Operate a Concrete 3D Printer

Recently I had the incredible opportunity to be one of the first Americans to see the 3D printed Fibonacci house under construction by Twente Additive Manufacturing. Maybe you saw it in the video I posted last week.

I also got to explore their facility and watch a few prints. I took the opportunity to ask pointed questions about the process so that I could compile the golden nuggets of knowledge directly from the experts during a print to share with you. For this weeks video, I have made an instructional introduction to operating a concrete 3D printer. There is a lot going on and so this short video barely scratches the surface of the various challenges one can face with different prints. Like Jim Ziemlanski says every print is different and with those differences come different challenges. At this point Jim has racked up many hours on the machine and is highly knowledgeable.

To understand what is involved on a basic level, here are the steps I’ve contrived from my observations during my time in the Twente Additive Manufacturing facility. 

  1. Design
  2. Test Run of first layer
  3. Choosing 1K vs 2K material
  4. Filling the mixer
  5. Dialing in the details
  6. Material consistency testing 
  7. Water Content Testing
  8. Backpressure
  9. Print 
  10. Watch for problems
  11. Analyze water content
  12. Insert rebar & lifting hold
  13. End the print gracefully

Designing the file is usually done in Rhino with the Grasshopper plugin. This is the industry standard software for parametric design in 3D printed construction. The file is then converted into a print path for the specific printer and its parameters can be updated in real time during a print if any changes need to be made thus eliminating the need to start over. 

Next you test the first layer path of the printer to ensure that you are printing on a uniform high from the print surface. If you print surface is uneven it may be possible to compensate for that with your printer assuming it is a correctable margin (< 2cm). It is best to start on a perfectly flat surface because that will ultimately be the plane of your objects first layer. 

Twente prints in two different material types, 1K and 2K. 1K is a simpler concrete mix developed by Laticrete. I’ve had Matthew Carli, the Director of Innovation at Laticrete on my podcast (Episode 3) to talk about the 3D printed construction space. The 2K material is developed by Baumit and requires a unique Baumit extruder along with an accelerant additive that is plugged into the nozzle and extruded with the proprietary material that it reacts with to allow the concrete to be printed on steeper angles, even permitting bridging and overhangs that would not be possible with regular concrete. As one may expect this more complicated material is much more expensive. 

Loading the concrete mixer is the next step. The mixer used at TAM is loaded by hand but long term as the demand increases for 3D printed concrete parts it is likely they will use larger hoppers so they need to fill them less often. 

Before printing, the concrete mix has to be dialed in properly. The settings need adjusting based off environmental factors like humidity and temperature. The hose from the mixer is nearly 20 ft long so it takes a while for the changes made to show in the end of the extruder. As the concrete drips from the extruder it is collected in 5G buckets and used for something that doesn’t need as particular parameters that way it doesn’t go to waste. 

To verify the water content wt% a 50 gram sample of the wet extruded concrete is taken and microwaved to remove the water. It is then weighed again to determine how many grams of water were in it. This difference in weight allows you to find the wt%. 

Before you start printing, back pressure must be applied to the extruder that way the concrete hose from the mixer stays full and doesn’t get any air pockets. This is done by hand with a spatula until the printer hits the print bed and starts on the first layer. This is similar to my Prusa MK3 desktop 3D printer that will extrude excess plastic which needs to be removed immediately before the print starts. 

Printing is actually the easy part. If everything is going smoothly all you have to do is watch but at this scale, issues can be costly and time consuming to clean up so its best to keep an eye on it. Concrete has a tendency to clog so if the print shows signs of looking sloppy it may be best to pause the print, clear the clog, and resume from where you left off. Other issues can arise if the design doesn’t allow the concrete enough strength to support itself. Making a 3D model is easy but without an understanding for the limitations of a printer/material a novice could easily design something impossible to print. While printing, it would be wise to do more water wt% calculations as you go. 

During the print it can be opportune to add supports in the form of rebar or supports for a hold that the piece can be lifted from in the future. This can be done by hand as long as it is placed evenly to allow the next concrete layer to print over top of it. 

Ending the print is similar to starting it because once again you must apply back-pressure to the printer that way it doesn’t drip all over the freshly done print. This is once again done with a spatula by hand. 

Just because the object is done, doesn’t mean you are. Next every part of the system that touched wet concrete has to be cleaned rigorously otherwise it could easily ruin the equipment. This paragraph is short but that process is long. 

Next week we will take a look at the things TAM has printed around the grounds of their facility. There are all kinds of prints they have achieved that range from practical to creative. We will also take a look at how the offsite prints are transported to their final locations. 

Icon 3D Prints Tiny Homes and Military Defense Structures

Recently I got the chance to speak with Dmitri Julius and Alexander Le Roux from Icon. If you haven’t heard, Icon is a startup that raise $35 Million A round led by Moderne Ventures to continue their progress developing the equipment and methodology for 3D printing buildings at scale. 

Our initial scheduling got rained out.  According to the head of communications at Icon, Brooke Baguess (who was instrumental in organizing our interview) filming after the rain is somewhat of an unintentional tradition for Icon. Also unintentionally, the day we had to reschedule for was 9/11. Coincidentally, Dmitri Julius had served in the US Marine Corps for 8 years earning the rank of sergeant starting in Feb 2003 only a year after the attack on the twin towers. I felt compelled to thank him and the rest of the troops/first responders for their service. 

Dmitri still has the chance to interact with the US Marine Corps in his role as Vice President of Operations at Icon. In California, a project was completed to 3D print a ‘Vehicle Hide Structure’ that could serve to conceal a cargo or weaponized vehicle. Icon has an ongoing relationship with the military that should prove mutually beneficial for years to come. 

Mobile Loaves and Fishes is the non-profit organization that Icon 3D printed these homes in Austin, TX. They’ve built a growing community of tiny homes that features an ICON made building as the welcome center. Homelessness is a rising issue in Austin, America, and around the world. ICON is poised to combat that with their technology. Dmitri mentioned that as Mobile Loaves and Fishes expands, ICON has stepped up to the plate and hopes to print many more homes for them in the future. 

I asked Dmitri how his role at ICON changed pre and post funding. Dmitri expressed that at their startup no task is ‘beneath’ them and the team is willing to get their hands dirty on the job site when it’s needed.

Icon is on a bit of a hiring spree post funding and as they begin to fill those positions and the company expands the real changes will start to manifest. A big fundraise is huge for a startup but the effects are not fully realized until the money gets spent. 

Next I spoke with Alexander Le Roux, a Co-Founder of Icon and also the CTO. Alex started his first 3D printed construction company in college called Vesta printers. He achieved a rudimentary design that demonstrated the ability to print concrete vertically high enough for a wall of a home. 

After college he met Jason Ballard and Evan Loomis. Together the three of them founded Icon to take the technology to the next level. 

Icon has developed a signature formula to print with that they call Lavacrete. It has a strength of 6000psi and as you can see in the building behind me (not even the latest version) it prints very smoothly. We constantly use the term ‘print’ to describe the automated pouring of concrete without any formwork, I can’t help but consider that in the mature stage of this presently niche industry companies may emulate the business model of paper printing companies and sell the printer at a loss to profit long term on the ink. 

Alex and I talked a bit about the future of this technology. He mentioned how people tend to overestimate what can be done in a day but underestimate what can be done in 10 years. I wanted to know about projects on the horizon for Icon especially now that they have the funding to pursue bigger things and Alex said he can’t talk about it but I could tell he is very excited for what’s to come. If you have a project in mind that you’d like to do with Icon, Alex says to go to their website www.iconbuild.com and use their contact form. They won’t accept just any project but if it is a good fit they may be willing to work with you.

After our discussions I checked out one of the homes they built, I could only go in the living room at the time but it was very nice. It certainly had a tiny home vibe, the room actually featured a full kitchen as well. The space is well utilized and it doesn’t feel cheap like it would if it had been built with cinderblocks. 

Check it out yourself at the link below. 

Reflection on discussion with Max Trommer, CEO of Rebartek

I recently had the opportunity to speak with the CEO of Rebartek AS Max(imillian) Trommer. His startup has developed an autonomous system of building rebar cages offsite that can latter be connected on site. 

large projects take thousands of man-hours assembling rebar cages. This time consuming process can hold up the schedule especially in places where labor is hard to come by like Norway where Rebartek is headquartered. Currently Rebartek does their fabrication in their facility, but there are many exciting developments ahead for their tech. One concept being tested is a semi mobile gantry system that could be brought to a construction site to decrease the shipping expenses of the assembled cages. This makes a lot of sense if you consider the volume of an assembled rebar form vs the the volume the rebar would take up if it were unassembled and parallel. 

Max started this company a couple years ago after working on a large bridge project and seeing firsthand how costly and time consuming it was to assemble the rebar. Initially he had a partner that helped him get the concept off the ground which was a key component for the concept because Max had no prior experience with automation robotics. Fast forward to now and his perspective on the complications of automation has changed drastically. 

Their initial concept has been realized but with more experience, Rebartek is now fine tuning the system and using machine learning to achieve a variety of efficiencies. 

Norway like many other countries faces a serious labor shortage that if left unsolved will lead to serious bottlenecks in the construction industry. Long term, a weak labor force means less buildings will be built and affordable housing access will decrease. Rebartek offers a solution to lighten a slice of this shortage and offer benefit to the construction schedule. 

Max would like future engineers to consider how to pursue parametric design and code based solutions and recommends pythons as a very versatile useful tool for aspiring engineers looking to automate tasks. 

As Rebartek continues to develop their technology and increase the efficiency of their product offering they will build a very compelling backlog of projects. It will take more projects to accurately depict the true time/cost savings because every project is so different but as always with technology over time there is no doubt we will see significant developments. 

Check out the Rebartek Youtube channel to get an idea of how their tech works. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdLqcA7B8-EVawmdF2mNrtg

Can You Buy a 3D Printed House?

This is the most common question I receive from both the YouTube comments and my website www.automate.construction

If you’re watching this video maybe you’ve seen some of my other videos where I tour 3D printed buildings and make content around the automated construction industry. Thanks to viewers like yourself, I now am getting access to opportunities and companies that previously had no interest in responding to me and because of you I’ll be able to make some really awesome videos coming up with some really awesome cutting edge companies. 

3 times a week someone will call me asking if a 3D printed house can be built their neighborhood so I figured it would be helpful to make a video answering this simple question. 

The short answer is yes but if you are looking to find the cheapest option, the tech is so new that it will be challenging to find someone that has a printer and the skills to use it who is willing to do a project with just one home. If you need a regular house built, the construction equipment for that project is available at every construction equipment rental outlet in the nation.  By my estimations there currently under 100 large scale concrete 3D printers capable of printing a tall enough wall for a house. 

To buy a 3D printed house, you will either have to make a deal directly with a company and pay them enough to convince them to use their very busy printer to make one house for you or buy the entire printer yourself which could cost more than the house. 

Ultimately the dream of automation and technology is to decrease the price of work therefore allowing more people and organizations access to building tech that would have otherwise been out of reach. Unfortunately in order for this goal to be realized the industry needs to get bigger in order to realize efficiencies of scale. Think of the way Tesla first sold their expensive roadster car back in 2010, it was nearly 10x more expensive than the Tesla model 3 that you can buy today. Teslas use of cutting edge automation in their manufacturing plants gave them an edge that has become impossible to ignore but for a very long time before the economies of scale were realized, many people thought the industry of electric cars would never be profitable and for a long time Tesla was the most shorted company on the US stock exchange.

It’s no secret there is a serious labor shortage in construction here in America and many other countries around the globe. Some are concerned automation will replace jobs but think of it this way, there are so many different types of architecture and there is room for all of them. No matter what there will always be people that appreciate a handmade building over one built by machines. 

The labor shortage is causing less new construction projects to be started. This is a major problem because according to freddiemac.com there is a shortage of 2.5million houses that need to be built in America. 

I’ve been in Austin for the past few months and in the short time I’ve been here I’ve seen the number of tents on highway medians and under bridges double and housing is only getting more expensive. 

The reality is unless more people start picking trade school over college homelessness and shelter insecurity will become an increasingly pressing matter. 

If you do still want to buy a 3D printed house the first big question is will it be permitted in your local municipalities zoning laws and construction code. The construction technique is so new that it can be tricky to figure out the permitting situation. 

If you want to make the process go smoothly then you can replicate traditional construction methods like CMU concrete blocks and fill columns of your printed concrete with rebar and traditional poured concrete. This is great for helping your municipality understand your project and getting though the paperwork quicker but because you will need to rely on traditional construction methods for all the structural elements of the building you will not realize the labor efficiencies. 

To print the house using the printed concrete as a structural element of the building, you force your architect or engineer to venture into unknown territory. For a professional engineer to sign off on your plan, you will need to test the structure to failure. Yes, this means that if you want to build a 3D printed house that is structurally dependent on printed elements then you must build not one but two houses because one of them will need to be destroyed in order to be sure it is strong enough. This is an irritating barrier to entry that is not cost effective at all but it is absolutely critical to ensure the safety of every house built with this technology. 

Thinking about the big picture this isn’t important, it’s only a temporary setback before enough data is collected for engineers to be able to accurately predict the strength of printed concrete elements every time, but for now every new structure must be proven to failure. 

Short term, a clever way around this is to use repeating modular segments that are identical. If you can build a house out of 3 or 4 different modular segments for example, one for a wall, one for a corner, one for a window and one for a door, then you only need to test each of those segments once and they can be printed and repeated into infinity as long as you continue testing the concrete parameters. 

If you wanted to build multiple similar units then this starts to make a lot more sense from a financial perspective because you always have the fixed cost of testing the new design so the more you build the more cost effective it gets. 

One of the major benefits of 3D printing as opposed to prefab is that your machine is capable of infinite designs as opposed to prefab units that are identical. If you want to build 1000s of units of the same building for the lowest price and fastest time then prefab is your best bet. If you want units that look unique, 3D printing concrete becomes a much more interesting option but the current environment of regulation is holding the tech back from its full potential and rightfully so until the safety standards have been proven to a sufficient redundancy. 

If you watched this entire video and you are still interested in getting a 3D printed house built for yourself knowing that being the first in your area to do so could be an expensive challenge then feel free to send an email to jarett@3dprinted.construction and I can try to help. 

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments, I will try to answer them as best I can. I am working on redeveloping my website to include a job listings section as many companies competing in the race to automate construction are currently hiring especially Engineers and Architects with parametric design experience. If there is anything else in particular you think would be a good addition to the website let me know. I would like to provide a place where resources are available for people pursuing automated construction projects who need them.

If you’ve signed up for my mailing list already which includes 114 people at this point thank you, soon I will be sending the first one.  for many people, their email inbox is a sacred place not to be bogged down with constant spam. Because of this I will make sure to only send emails when it is really worth it, maybe once or twice a month. It’s really meant for the people who have a deep interest in the long term prospect of automated construction, so if you’re only interested in the surface level project videos, then there is really no need for you to be on the mailing list. 

I hope this video answers some of your questions and that you aren’t too disappointed you can’t just order a 3d printed house online and have it come in a week for under $100,000. In time all technology is improving incredibly fast and there is no reason to suspect that this technology won’t ultimately be the same.

If you want to learn more, check out my other videos where I cover 30 companies competing in 3D printing houses and tour various 3D printed buildings.

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Reflection on Conversation with the CFO of BEMORE3D, Jose Luis Puchades Valencia

Recently I got the opportunity to speak with a cofounder and the CFO of BeMore3D, Jose Luis Puchades Valencia. BeMore3D developed their own large scale concrete printer. They started as a 3D printing company with plastics but then developed a 2×2 meter printer as a proof of concept for printing concrete and from there they engineered the much larger printer that they use today. 

Their biggest accomplishments to date are printing the first houses in both Spain and Africa. A focus on materials is at the heart of BeMore3D, they are constantly working on developing solutions and have experience fine tuning their mix with local ingredients to achieve a cost effective material to print with.

Jose told me that soon they will be unveiling a brand new website that will be transformative for their online presence and allow potential clients a whole new suite of functions including the process of buying a large scale concrete printer from BeMore3D. If you don’t want to wait for their new website you can contact them directly and place an order. 

You can see in the house printed in Africa that the project goes through the whole day and as the sun moves there are drastic changes in the temperature and humidity. Concrete is sensitive to these factors so BeMore3D has included sensors in their printer that detect the ambient conditions for the project and adjust the parameters of the print like how much water is included in the mixture. 

By using polymeric fibers in their concrete mix they are able to avoid using traditional steel supports and rebar. Eliminating the need for these things down the line will really help in maximizing the autonomy of the project. BeMore3D has many exciting projects lined up, I will be sure to track their accomplishments as they grow and spread their tech around the world. 

Mighty Buildings Modular Prefab Houses Incorporate 3D Printed Synthetic Stone

There is a brand new company with 30 million in funding from silicon valley investors on the scene of Automated Construction that just came out of stealth mode in August 2020 and they’ve already delivered their first  2 units to customers.

Anyone who has done construction in California is familiar with the shortage of skilled laborers that is driving construction costs through the roof stick built housing in California costs $321. Mighty buildings has developed a solution decreasing this cost by 45%. Of course if the land has precarious circumstances the cost to build a secure foundation could be well over the expense for the home.

Mighty Buildings has been developing a solution for 3D printing unlike any I’ve seen on a large scale. With a custom printer and custom material, Mighty Buildings has differentiated their product significantly from materials based on Portland cement.

They call it synthetic stone. This material is lighter and supposedly stronger than concrete while also having an even higher thermal resistance which is an enormous benefit in the fiery land of California. Having a home that is fire resistant to this degree can be the difference between having a place to go back to after a natural disaster. Unlike concrete which cures over time, Mighty Buildings synthetic stone requires ultraviolet light to instantly harden which creates such a strong structure that they can 3D print a flat horizontal roof with a breadth up to 14ft.

All of their printing is done completely off site in one of their controlled facilities. After it is printed they use a crane to drop it into place. If it is a bigger home then it will be placed one section at a time but the smallest model is all in one. Down the line, they are looking towards solutions that will chemically seal the modular segments together so that the exterior shell can form a monolithic impenetrable structure. Achieving a monolithic structure offers many benefits like preventing water damage, and improving insulation which in turn can decrease your electric bill and improve the overall sustainability of your home. 

Mighty buildings first home has already achieved a Certificate of Occupancy  for their first residential homes and the occupant seems quite satisfied so far. This was made possible largely because they got the material they are using to be UL certified which goes a long way in cementing the legitimacy and trust in their product. 

Mighty buildings is much more a tech startup than a construction company and that is evident in their approach to the entire process. It will be very exciting to see this company grow as they reach their early adopter customer base and begin to receive feedback on a large scale on what it is actually like to live in one of these homes. As with any tech I am positive that Mighty Buildings will be constantly trying to improve their product. 

3D printing lends itself to intricacy because if you can make a really cool model or a unique parametric design then a 3D printer can achieve a level of detail that would be absolutely cost prohibitive otherwise. Designing models like that can take a long time but once they are made they can be printed over and over with the press of a button. Because of this there is no doubt that the Mighty Buildings catalog will be expanding drastically over time.

If they had no interest in offering a diverse lineup of products then they would have just build injection molds for their current product line but instead they opted for the infinitely more versatile option of 3D printing. 

In the near future I have some really awesome videos planned with some really awesome companies, I am really looking forward to stepping up my game as I continue to research automated construction sharing my findings.

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Reflection on Conversation with Peter-Paul Van Der Berg and Marijke Aerts

Today, over an hour into an episode of the Automate Construction Podcast with Peter-Paul Van Der Berg and Marijke Aerts I realized it was not recording because I was signed into the wrong email address when I sent out the invitation to the meeting. After noticing this I was able to turn on QuickTime screen capture which could only record my screens visuals not the audio, I used my phone to record the meetings audio from my laptop and tried to sync up the sound. I will try to recount the missing details from the first portion of our conversation because it was a terrific eye opening experience for me and I’d like to share it.

The Kamp C team and its critical partners have 3D printed the first multi story house in Europe, specifically in Antwerp, Belgium. This was a showcase project meant to demonstrate the possibilities and practicality of 3D printed construction techniques.  Peter-Paul said the printing of the house went off without a hitch and there were not big issues to be resolved which is incredible considering this house is the first of its kind in Europe.

The house printed in Belgium was done without any rebar or internal supports besides the printed concrete and the insulating foam. The interior wall and exterior wall of the building are completely separated with no bridging to maintain the best insulating properties. Many people have requested Kamp C build them a model of the house but Kamp C is not a typical construction company and they are primarily in the pursuit of exploring new technologies and strategies related to construction. 

There is a newer project in Belgium for a recreational space that will be 3D printed that Kamp C has been assisting with. The number of projects in this space will increase over the coming years, one group plans on printing 7 units in Belgium by 2023. 

Kamp C is not your typical construction company, they are funded in part by the local government in the pursuit of innovation and sustainability. They are working on building commercial buildings with ‘circular’ construction which means that over the course of multiple decades they will build 4 buildings, one at a time and after the life of the first one has expired it will be deconstructed and the materials from the first building will be used to rebuild the last, if the project is successful the parts from the other buildings will be reused many times over as well. 

They also gave a really interesting example of what differentiates their strategies from traditional construction companies. In the circular building project they want to lease out the products of certain construction trades like windows and lighting so that the contractor is responsible for the life of the project not just the deliverable on the last day the final punch list is closed out. This strategy is being implemented in order to change the way construction is perceived and keep investors from cutting corners in order to get the job done quickly or cheaply when there are better long term solutions available. 

It was very unique that an organization tied to the government was willing to hop on this podcast with me. One thing they mentioned is that when someone comes to them with an idea, first they say yes and then they figure out how to get it done. This open minded attitude and entrepreneurial spirit is what seems to drive Kamp C toward the unprecedented type projects they tend to work on. Governments can sometimes regulate and impede markets but by supporting Kamp C Belgium has made it clear they are dedicated to exploring cutting edge solutions. Belgium will see an advantage when these construction techniques catch on and they already have some experience. 

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Introduction to Material Science and Rheology of Extrudable Concrete for 3D Printing in Construction

3D printed construction might be the most promising way to automate construction so recently many people have been pursuing the perfect mix for printing. Rheology is the study of how materials flow so that is the science being applied to concrete made for printing.

My name is Jarett Gross and I’ve gathered this information mostly from research featured at Digital Concrete 2020 to simplify some of the material science behind forward thinking disruptive construction methods. 

These materials range from nearly free adobe mixtures of dirt and straw to ultra strong and highly engineered custom concrete hybrid mixtures that can be cost prohibitive in respect to affordable housing. 

Currently most groups automating large forms are using unique mixtures of concrete engineered to have properties conducive to a sturdy structure.

The material needs to hold immediately exiting the machine. Generally that is either achieved by a stiff mortar or a thinner mix with an accelerant added at the point of extrusion to cure the concrete faster and achieve angles gravity otherwise would not permit. (1)

Thixopotry is a property that allows a mixture to flow when it is being moved but remain firm after it has been placed so this is behind many of the developments in this space.

Some of these mixes include various forms of supports which I will cover in an upcoming video, others are strong enough to support themselves like the project in Brazil by InovaHouse3D. 

Many mixtures have been considered using Portland cement. Wollastonite micro fibers have been shown to enhance flexural strength without detriment to compressive strength. The same study shows printed concrete demonstrates anisotropic behavior, in other words like the grain of wood it fails easier parallel to the grain vs perpendicular to the grain (2)

Mixes can be thick or have more flow, these properties can be influenced by viscosity modifying admixtures’VMA’. NanoClay can improve the strength of the print but makes the mixture more susceptible to clogging to viscosity modifying admixtures can improve the flow. (3) 

Two minute delay time between layers has 25-86% higher strength than a 15 minute interval it is important to get a monolithic structure (4)

Fly ash silica fume metakaolin limestone powder and quartz powder have been identified as having useful properties for printed concrete. Plasticizers, accelerators, retarders, and viscosity modifying agents can be used but increase cost dramatically (5)

Limestone can be implemented with less cement to decrease cost to print and improve sustainability. 

Under a 25% replacement rate of limestone powder to cement, the impact on strength is within reasonable limits.  (6)

Metakaolin leads to a more dry mix that is stronger after extrusion but more difficult to extrude. Fly Ash can be included to improve the printability. Adding polypropylene fibers was shown to increase the yeild stress. (7)

Here are the details from a mix made in a region where dune sand is an abundant resource (8)

  • Cement was replaced by up to 10% silica fume and 30% fly ash
  • water-to-binder ratio used in the mix ranged between 0.35 and 0.40.
  • superplasticizer was added in the range of 1 to 3%, by binder mass.
  • compressive strength increased by 3% when 20% dune sand was utilized, but decreased by an average of 3% for every additional 10% subsequently.
  • superplasticizer and higher water- to-binder ratio exhibited improved workability
  • replacing cement with silica fume and fly ash, the slump flow and pumpability increased
  • Compressive strength increased by an average of 4% for every 10% fly ash replacement. The incorporation of 10% silica fume improved the strength by an additional 14%

Lightweight foam concrete is common but to use it for 3d printing it would need to be extrudable. Extrudable lightweight foam concrete could be great for 3d printing because of its thermal insulation and accoustic qualities in addition to fireproofing. 

The target dry density was 800kg/m^3 because that was figured to be the best balance between strength and staying lightweight. (9)

Structural fibers had a negligible effect on the mixes strength in tension, it is theorized that the fresh state properties of the material prevent the fibers to anchor in place which prevents tension strength (10)

As I mentioned, I will soon do a video on the support methods used for this type of construction. Another video on commercially available mixes for printed construction will probably be 3-6 months away as there are many solutions still in development that I would like to include. 

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Citations

(1) Enhancing Buildability of 3D Printable Concrete by Spraying of Accelerating Admixture on Surface 

Shantanu Bhattacherjee and Manu Santhanam Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, Chennai 600036, India 

ce17d700@smail.iitm.ac.in, manusanthanam@gmail.com

(2) Effect of Wollastonite Micro-Fiber Addition on Properties of 3D-Printable ‘Just-Add- Water’ Geopolymers 

Shin Hau Bong, Behzad Nematollahi, Arun R. Arunothayan, Ming Xia, and Jay Sanjayan 

Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Digital Construction, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, VIC, Australia bnematollahi@swin.edu.au 

(3) Use of the Chemical and Mineral Admixtures to Tailor the Rheology and the Green Strength of 3D Printing Cementitious Mixtures 

Mohammad Amin Moeini, Masoud Hosseinpoor, and Ammar Yahia 

Department of Civil and Building Engineering, 

Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Canada Mohammad.Amin.Moeini@USherbrooke.Ca 

(4) Characterising Concrete Mixes for 3D Printing 

Atteyeh S. Natanzi and Ciaran McNally
School of Civil Engineering, University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin, Ireland 

Atteyeh.natanzi@ucd.ie 

(5) Rheology Evaluation of Cement Paste with Nanoclays, Nanosilica and Polymeric Admixtures for Digital Fabrication 

Hugo Varela, Gonzalo Barluenga, and Irene Palomar Department of Architecture, University of Alcala, Madrid, Spain 

hugo.varela@edu.uah.es

(6) Effect of Limestone Powder Substitution on Fresh and Hardened Properties of 3D Printable Mortar 

Yaxin Tao, Karel Lesage1, Kim Van Tittelboom1, Yong Yuan2, and Geert De Schutter1 

1 Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium 

Yaxin.Tao@UGent.be 

2 Tongji University, Shanghai, China 

(7) Effect of Metakaolin, Fly Ash
and Polypropylene Fibres on Fresh and Rheological Properties of 3D Printing Based Cement Materials 

M. Dedenis1, M. Sonebi1, S. Amziane2, A. Perrot3, and G. Amato1 

1 School of Natural Build Environment, Queen’s University of Belfast, Belfast, UK
m.sonebi@qub.ac.uk 

Université Blaise Pascal, Polytech Clermont-Ferrand, 63174 Aubière, France 3 Univ. Bretagne-Sud, UMR CNRS 6027, IRDL, 56100 Lorient, France 

(8) Fresh and Hardened Properties of 3D-Printed Concrete Made with Dune Sand 

Hilal El-Hassan , Fady Alnajjar , Hamad Al Jassmi, and Waleed Ahmed 

United Arab Emirates University, Al Ain, UAE 

helhassan@uaeu.ac.ae 

(9) Investigation on the Rheological Behavior of Lightweight Foamed Concrete for 3D Printing Applications 

Devid Falliano1, Giuseppe Crupi2, Dario De Domenico2, Giuseppe Ricciardi2, Luciana Restuccia1, Giuseppe Ferro1, and Ernesto Gugliandolo3 

1 Polytechnic of Turin, Turin, Italy 

devid.falliano@polito.it   

2 University of Messina, Messina, Italy 3 G. Gugliandolo s.r.l., Messina, Italy 

(10) Experimental Investigation on the Early Age Tensile Strength of Fiber Reinforced Mortar Used in 3D Concrete Printing 

Marta Fioretti1, K. Sriram Kompella1, Francesco Lo Monte1, Laura Esposito2, Costantino Menna2, Sandro Moro3, Domenico Asprone2, and Liberato Ferrara1 

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Politecnico di Milano, Milan, Italy 

2 Department of Structures for Engineering and Architecture, Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II, Naples, Italy laura.esposito2@unina.it
3 BASF Construction Chemicals Italia, Treviso, Italy 

Juliana Martinelli and Andre Dantas, Founders of InovaHouse 3D + 3D Home Construction | Automated Construction Podcast Ep. 7

3D Home Construction and InovaHouse3D have partnered up to build Brazils first 3D printed house in early July 2020. At 66sqm or 710 sqft it has 2 bedrooms and is currently being tested for its viability. 

My name is Jarett Gross, I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Juliana Martinelli, founder of InovaHouse 3D and Andre Dantas, founder of 3D Home Construction. You can listen to the whole 100 minute conversation at the link above.

Printing the first house in Brazil was no easy feat but this team was able to achieve that lofty goal spending only $35,000 of their own money to develop the printer and print the house. This is a bootstrapped, grassroots startup driven by ambition and a dream.

The original printer developed by InovaHouse3D was given the friendly nickname ‘frankenstin’ because of the ‘use what you have’ nature of their project. With McGyver like resourcefulness they managed to demonstrate the viability of printed concrete on their custom machine.

Frankenstein helped push many of the early innovations and learning experiences for InovaHouse3D. Through their learning process they decided to build walls that are not connected by an interior support structure and don’t even use rebar. 

The local municipalities often deal with many non-compliant construction projects done by the Brazilian citizens so maybe that is why they are willing to work with this company. InovaHouse3D is keeping the municipalities involved every step of the way. Fortunately, there is a precedent set there for concrete forms without rebar and by adhering to those standards the process is more simple than other countries with more strict building codes. 

InovaHouse was built on the dream of affordable housing for the masses. This is a Brazilian company that is looking to make an impact in their home country and help their people improve living standards.

Now this company is raising money to print many more houses in a new location. The details of their next project have yet to be revealed but we can hope for as many as 10 houses on the next construction site near Brasilia, Brazil. The newest project will require around $250,000 in capital, interested investors should understand this is a long term investment in a new technology with a large reward potential when this tech becomes proven enough to be mainstream. 

Digital Concrete 2020 Highlights

Last week I had the unique opportunity of attending the Digital Concrete 2020 event sponsored by Sika, Twente Additive Manufacturing, Weber Beamix, BEKAERT, Rilem, O-BASF, and DOW chemical. Every 2 years this event is held to highlight innovations in the future of concrete, generally it is an in person event however obviously this year it was moved online. In total there was over 1200 pages of research papers, over 100 presentations exclusive to attendees and 12 hours public YouTube footage. 

From bridges to buildings construction techniques are evolving at a pace never seen before and considering construction is the biggest industry in the world, these changes will have significant effects related to efficiency, safety, sustainability, and affordable housing.

Engineering is complicated but anyone can understand the basics of printed concrete. All of these innovations fall into three important categories. Many topics discussed relate to the synergies between these categories but everything directly relates to at least one, Material, Printer, or Design. 

People are experimenting with all kind of materials like dune sand, aircrete, dirt, salt, fly ash, metakaolin, Fe rich slag, and fibers like wollastonite fiber or polypropylene fiber. 

There are many types of printers, most fall into the category of gantry style or robotic arm but many are a combination of both for maximum mobility. 

There is much debate over the best method of reinforcing these large structures especially when trying to make them larger scale. Some companies have a mix that does not require post processing and others use rebar wire or screws to attain more structural integrity. There is also debate in onsite vs offsite printing and whether or not to use accelerant.

Design is a critical part of the process, without quality design the potential of these technologies would be squandered. The beautiful part is these technologies permit existing software for parametric design to be used to its full potential. 

If you are interested in the future of construction then I would highly recommend attending the next Digital Concrete event in 2022 as I am sure there will be many significant developments in this field by then. I put together this video of highlights but it was very difficult to pick only 10 minutes from the 12 hours of event footage, you can watch the whole thing on the 3D Concrete Printing TUe YouTube page. 

3D Printed Hyper-Sustainable Shelter Emerging Object Mud Frontiers Project

This is the one of the most cost effective and affordable solution for autonomous construction. Mud and straw has been used as a construction material for thousands of years but never like this. Could this be an early iteration of affordable housing that has 0 emissions? Creators Ronald Real and Virginia San Fratello said ‘On the 40th anniversary of the Smithsonian Magazine, they announced the 40 things you need to know about the next 40 years. Number one on that list was: “Sophisticated buildings will be made of mud”. Emerging Objects explores these frontiers of technology and material using traditional materials (clay, water, and wheat straw), to push the boundaries of sustainable and ecological construction in a two phase project that explores traditional clay craft at the scale of architecture and pottery. The end goal of this endeavor is to demonstrate that low-cost and low-labor construction that is accessible, economical and safe is possible. The project began in the contemporary borderlands along the Rio Grande watershed beginning in El Paso and Juarez and ended near the headwaters of the Rio Grande in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, which was the edge of the historic border between the U.S. and Mexico prior to 1848. The entire region has employed traditional pottery and earthen construction traditions for centuries.’

Reflection on Conversation with Twente Additive Manufacturing

I had a great time speaking with Ian Comishin and Jonathan Ladouceur, the President and Head of Engineering from Twente Additive Manufacturing. In the very beginning of our discussion they even gave a quick virtual tour of their facility and showed a project that they were working on just minutes before our call. The tour uniquely includes a look at their 9-axis printer, many companies keep the details of their mechanical tech under wraps so it is great for people to be able to see what the large concrete printing apparatus looks like. We also get to see the beautiful surrounding Canadian landscapes and some other outdoor structures they have printed.

The project they are currently working on involves printing objects that have increasing vertical angles. They achieve this by increasing the height of the printed bead of concrete on the right side of the wall without increasing the width. Achieving a quality finish with so many variables at play is a challenge that they seem to have beaten. Twente additive manufacturing has consistently been pushing the limits of their print technology. They have even printed the formwork for the slab that they are now building a house on. 

When asked where Ian sees Twente fitting into the 3CDP industry he said that he wants to help other people that need 3DCP tech figure out how to make it work best for them. For example, he is sitting on a staircase that he printed but if there was a company that specializes in staircases, he would be happy to get them set up with the tech to print custom staircases. 

Ian and Jonathan were very transparent in discussing some of the challenges that they have faced in their projects. The two have been working on the same teams for many years at this point. They both seem to agree with me that 3D printed buildings should leave some of the exposed layers as a demonstration of the tech but there are many people that would prefer a smooth traditional looking finish. 

About halfway through we get to talking about permitting and regulations. Currently printed elements can be used as a facade but not as the structural support of a building. In order for structural engineers to recognize the structural properties of a printed element they need to basically build 2 houses any time they want to print 1 because one house needs to be destroyed to demonstrate that it is strong enough to be valid. Of course every place will have different details and specifics when it comes to municipalities and regulations. 

Down the line, Twente hopes to build the biggest printer in the world somewhere in Europe. Currently they are looking for partners or clients to help them achieve this goal over the next 18-24 months. Jonathan even specified that their printer will be able to print onsite and offsite. There are many was to segment companies in this sector and Twente does their best to fit into all of them, they use both gantry and robotic arm printers, single material and dual material printers, the list goes on. 

I am sure we will see many more exciting developments in the 3DCP space from Twente Additive Manufacturing if you are interested in the details you can listen to the zoom call with the virtual tour that we recorded and put on YouTube.

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Reflection on my conversation with Luai Kurdi, Tech Lead at Besix 3D

Many of you know Dubai is a hotspot for futuristic construction tech so it was great being able to speak to Luai Kurdi, the tech lead for printing concrete at Besix 3D. Besix 3D is a subsidiary of Besix which is quite an established construction company in Dubai. They have really demonstrated their dedication to automated construction technology by printing modular concrete pieces for the walls of an addition to their headquarters.

Luai was on the call with me from his apartment in Dubai where he had a beautiful view of the sea from his apartment in what seemed to be a skyscraper, you can see his view for yourself at 1:19:30 in the video. 

As an architecture student Luai was always looking for new innovations and techniques for architecture even though his school primarily wanted to focus on teaching the old ways. It was on his own initiative that he learned about parametric design. Being skilled in parametric design, 3DCP became appealing to him because of the way the two subjects excel in collaboration. 

A benefit of their technology is that it has the ability to operate while maintaining social distancing. This means that even in April and May of 2020 they were able to complete some prints without putting anyone in harms way. 

In our lengthy discussion we touched on many topics like how the recycle any excess concrete, construction software of the future, heat resistance of printed concrete, concrete pumps, and much more.

Luai speaks enough languages to be considered a polyglot which is quite a feat, this helps him operate in a global environment and communicate better with more people. It is important that people interested in doing a project with Besix 3D have clear goals for what they would like to accomplish and at 1:41:00 you can hear about the typical issues with customer requests so that you can make appropriate considerations. Luai would like more engineers to enter the 3DCP space, the technology still has much progress to be made so it will require brainpower from engineers that will shape the future of contech to push to the next level. 

Reflection on a conversation with Fernando De Los Rios, Founder of Hyperion Robotics

Fernando de los rios may be the only person who has already worked at not one but two 3DCP startups. Many people have heard of Cazza construction but their project never came to fruition. Now Fernando is one of the founders of a company called Hyperion Robotics and they have a fully functioning concrete 3D printer.

We spoke about the printing process, how they build a pop-up factory around the print site to build on site occasionally and the concrete pumps they use. Hyperion uses a Kuka robotics arm as the foundation of their machine. They are working on some really cool projects that include artificial reefs and some exciting future builds that are still under wraps. 

Fernandos startup experience extends beyond Hyperion Robotics and Cazza Construction, he also was a founder at a company called Prix (pronounced ‘pre’) that did grocery delivery. At Hyperion his primary responsibilities are on the business end rather than the hands on engineering but working in this high tech space he has certainly learned very much about the tech. 

Hyperion is a company from Finland where they have a great startup environment to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. If you are interested in getting something printed you can go to https://www.hyperionrobotics.com/

Reflection on a conversation with Matthew Carli, Director of Innovation at Laticrete

After speaking with some startups about their progress in 3D printed concrete, I thought it would be great to speak with a bigger company with decades of experience in materials engineering about their perspective on future construction tech and I was not disappointed. Matthew Carli and I spoke for 2 hours on the subject and you can watch the whole thing below.

For those of you who prefer a synopsis, we first discussed Matthews role as Director of Innovation at Laticrete. Instead of resting on their laurels they constantly scope out the emerging technologies in their industry and have developed many iterations of printable concrete mixes that set quickly and yield very impressive strength results, thus how Laticrete fits into the 3DCP world. Some other areas Laticrete is demonstrating their forward thinking is their free E-Learning platform. 

We also spoke about why 3DCP is not the solution to affordable housing yet and the key milestones to get there in the near future. Primarily, the current mixes are over engineered to get the best possible results far beyond the requirements set forward for concrete historically. To create a solution that will provide mass affordable housing, engineers will need to start focusing on making a cost effective product. More demand for this mix will decrease the cost inevitably. 

We also talked about a really cool project that may be on the E-Learning platform soon which was converting a regular desktop 3d printer to facilitate concrete printing. When this becomes available I may try to convert my Prusa MK3 myself. 

Then we got into parametric design. The more I learn about 3DCP the more I realize how valuable the relationship between 3DCP and parametric design is. I will certainly have to dive deeper into this topic in the future. 

We spent a bit of time discussing the impacts of COVID-19 on Laticrete. In many areas construction has been permitted at this point so Laticrete is certainly still very much in business, but COVID has transformed the way business is done. Everyone is pretty much working from home using Microsoft teams to collaborate and get their work done. Matthew said that Laticrete was able to adapt to this situation without halting too much of their productive activities. 

I look forward to seeing how Laticretes developments contribute to the 3DCP space in the future, you can expect them to continue experimenting with printable fast set concrete and are already cementing themselves as a leader in construction materials. 

Reflection on a Conversation with Volker Ruitinga, Founder of Vertico

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.

58 companies and organizations related to Automated Construction, 3D Printed Construction (3DCP)

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Video Part 1

Video Part 2

Apis Cor

Printers designed in Russia, headquartered in the united states. Many projects including placing in multiple rounds of the Nasa space 3d printing competition and a very large office building in Dubai.

Wasp 3D

3d printer company that developed a large 3d printer called the Delta Big. They are capable in printing many materials including a simple mixture of dirt and straw that is extremely affordable and good for the environment.

Cobod

The bod 2 printer is quite an advanced gantry system. Cobod has the intention of doing module 3d printed construction. They are a one of the market leaders in Europe.

Constructions 3D 

Constructions 3D has a robotic arm printer that resembles a boon. It stands uniquely like a spider and is capable of printing in quite a large radius.

Icon Build

Icon is an American company that has partnered with a non-profit new story to print an affordable housing project in south America. They have also partnered with some united states government programs in Texas

Contour Crafting

Contour crafting is an American company that has partnered with the united states department of defense for emergency relief applications. They are a sleeper pick in the industry, I think that because of their government relationship they are not allowed to share much intel related to their projects.

Mudbots

Mudbots sells the cheapest printer of all the companies on this list. You can buy their printer online for around $30,000.

Rohaco/ swinburne university

6 axis printer designed in collaboration with Swinburne University.

Vertico

6 axis printer allows them to print forms on surfaces that are not flat. This increases the flexibility for designers and architects who want to push the limits of this new tech.

Passivedom

Claims to be 3D printed but I am unsure what part of their design is supposed to be printed. 

CERAMBOT

Cerambot is a company that has focused on building 3d printers that print in clay and ceramics but they have developed a large scale model capable of printing in concrete.

Koala3D

This company is only a concept and they have not given any updates in years but their idea was so unique I had to share it. Koala 3D wanted to have many robots in a swarm doing construction together.

Houseofdus

This project was to 3D print a small house from plastic. It seems like it was either a temporary installment of just a rendering.

Sika

Sika is the biggest company on this list to publicly demonstrate a big interest in 3d printed construction. 

Branch Technology

Unique looking outdoor structures and shapes very large and artsy, Design focused.

Cybe

Many international projects printing houses

Hyperion

Design and 3D printing services for custom construction elements such as columns, beams, slabs and walls.

Atena (Software)

Determines printability of a model by analysing structural properties.

Twente Additive Manufacting

Medium to large building components like steps or intricate window designs

Sq3d

Biggest 3d printed house in America

Winsun

Chinese company that has received over $200 million in investment. They have done many projects but do not have the most advanced technology especially considering the total investment. 

Betabram

Prints square walls

Dshape

Enrico Dini was the first person to ever 3D print a house in concrete.

Mx3d

Printed a bridge in metal

Xtree

Prints small parts of buildings as a subcontractor rather than trying to build the entire thing at once.

ESA

European space agency did a project with Foster & partners to make this rendering of what a 3d printed moon base could look like.

Total Kustom

Andrey Rudenko took the world by storm when he build a 3D printed concrete castle in his own backyard. This impressive project went viral.

Batiprint

Foam outline that gets concrete poured into it

MOBBOT

French company with a printer

Fastbrick Robotics

Conveyor belt system from a boon to pick and place individual bricks

3DPrintCrete

African Company that printed a circular structure with interior supports

3D PLODDER

Cheapest Printer on market has a medium y and z axis print area but the x axis seems to only be about a foot in their cheapest model. 

3D Printhuset

Used Cobod printer for bod project

3DSD

Shotcrete extruded onto premade dome, hard to fit into the 3D printing category

AI SpaceFactory

Tera concept for earth and also printed mars habitat concepts

Armatron

Patent on membrane between layers and wall stack system

Arup

Prints smaller wall segments then moves printer to print the next one. 

BAM

Larger company demonstrating an interest in 3D printing

BeMore3D

House print

Besix3D

Small print

Bruil

Large retrofit to revitalize building

CarpaCorp

Unique printer head group of students

Concre3DlabGhent

Small printed letters high accuracy

Dubox & Witeeven + Bos

Demonstration print witeeven + bos is involved in many other 3d printed projects as well a

ETH Zurich

Unique automated system tying rebar

FormForge

Robotic arm maybe on a track

Genesis Dimensions

Small scale print proprietary solution

Geopolymer Institute

Studying the future of geopolymer concrete better fire resistance

Imprimere AG Big 3D Printer

Round print suspiciously little footage 

Kamp C

Construction company experimenting with the tech 

KKrane

Unique mixture to print that has different properties that concrete making it better for printing

Kuka

Big robotics company that makes many of the robotic arm printers

Nagami

Large scale PLA projects like this chair. Companies like this will 

Oak Ridge

Large outdoor features

Packhunt.io

Concrete vase

Purdue

Small print 

TU/e Eindhoven

University project using gantry style rohaco instead of the robotic arm rohaco that youve seen earlier. 

UC Berkley

Small 3d printed parts assembled by hand into a larger project

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Introduction to Large Scale 3D Concrete Printing (3DCP)

Like a car has quantifiable specifications like 0 to 60 speed, horsepower or breaking speed, and qualitative qualities like comfort and styling as do different models of 3-D printers in construction. First let’s discuss the quantitative traits. One of the most important factors is how big of a structure can the 3-D printer create. Some companies like Winsun from China have massive 3-D printers in a warehouse that do not move. Although they are immobile and unable to print on site these printers can be over  10,000 ft.² in base area and over 30 feet in height. Other printers like the one developed by icon build have systems on rails that permit axis of unlimited length.

Another quantifiable measure is print speed. This factor is effected by the size and shape of the nozzle extruding the material you’re printing with. If the material you are printing with takes too long to dry then no matter how fast your printer is able to move you will still need to wait until the last layer is structurally secure enough to print the next layer on.A majority of these 3-D printers are meant to be mobile so that they can print on site. This makes the weight of the printer another important factor.  The heavier and larger the printer is in its disassembled form the more expensive it will be to transport driving up costs of the construction project. Very few companies have yet to develop tremendous solutions for value engineering the transportation cost of their printer.

The industry is so young that most companies are still perfecting the reliability and print quality of their machines.Energy required to operate the printer it Is also an important factor. Both from a cost and environmental standpoint it is important.Now on to the qualitative aspects. There are many different styles of 3-D printer as discussed earlier a big differentiation is whether they operated on polar or Cartesian coordinates. Polar coordinates are optimal for creating smooth lines where as Cartesian coordinates make it easier to create sharp edges although both styles of printer are capable of doing both of those things. Generally a printer operating on Cartesian coordinates will be a gantry style printer with four pillars although some operate on as few as two with a rail system or six or more without the rail system.

The next qualitative aspect is mobility. Is the printer is intended to move, or is it meant to print everything in one location and the things it prints be moved after the fact? If the printer is mobile, must be disassembled and assembled between each project? Often time’s printers on polar coordinates are easier to transport because they operate off of one peace and robotic arm as opposed to an entire gantry system. It is much easier to stabilize the nozzle with a gantry style printer because there are so many more supports. It is challenging and very expensive to create large-scale robotic arms capable of millimeter precision, especially when the robotic arm must carry a heavy load like a metal nozzle and large hose full of heavy liquid concrete mix.The form of energy that the printer runs on varies. Some printers operate on liquid gas where as other printers operate on electricity. Electricity tends to be more efficient, however in some regions electricity is not readily accessible. Wasp 3-D claims to have achieved 3D printed houses using electricity generated from solar panels.

As this technology improves it will be interesting to see the development of these printers. Currently most are made from metals like steel.There aren’t many companies competing in this very young industry. These printers require significant investment to develop and we will not likely see them being mass-produced any time soon. It would be very challenging for one company to quickly capture the entire market simply because the construction industry is such an enormous beast.  There are many enormous construction companies in the United States and many thousands more that operate as small businesses on more local scales.This technology will open up the doors for all kinds of new businesses in the construction industry.

Regulation and Permitting for 3D Printed Construction

The biggest issue with the 3-D printed construction market right now is regulation. Enormous unions that are stuck in old ways have had influence over construction standards and regulations in America over the past two decades. There has yet to be a legally permitted residence 3-D printed in America. However there are other countries with fewer regulatory hurdles that have already 3-D printed structures completed with people living in them currently. Most notably a project done by Icon Build and New Story in Ecuador. These strict regulations could take decades to change, that is why the cost of the specialized concrete needs to go down so that the technology can be a significant enough improvement to convince legal officials to permit 3-D printed construction.

If all goes well it could be a matter of a few years until it is evident these structures are strong and safe enough to allow humans to live in them.The best markets for 3-D printing construction are southern areas where the temperature rarely goes below freezing. If the temperature rarely goes below freezing then it is not necessary to pour extremely deep concrete or drill down to the bedrock in order to have a structurally secure building. If the leaders of your municipalities in states like Texas or Florida want to champion this technology there is certainly that opportunity. It is likely that the first region to adapt this technology wilI have an economic boom with the quantity of high-quality unique affordable housing that this technology has to offer.

In some countries in Europe, plans are already underway to build complete 3-D printed villages. These towns are a very exciting opportunity for this technology to demonstrate its practicality.The people who need this technology most are people in impoverished countries. Unfortunately those countries are often the last to receive the benefits of new innovations. It is challenging to do even nonprofit projects in these regions because often times the government officials or imposters are so corrupt that they expect to be paid to allow you to do charity work uplifting their communities. If not the government, there are often rogue rebel groups that will cause issues and delay if not stop completely your progress and mission. Without a seasoned overseas non-profit veteran on the team it is a dangerous and treacherous and environment to pursue. In my opinion the best way to make this technology mainstream is for the current companies that have built printers to focus on printing things that don’t require complicated permits. Many products come to thought, you could build a fireplace, a bench, a fountain or other water feature, a planter wall, a retaining wall, highway barriers, a shed, an outdoor standalone garage, the list goes on and on.

If companies can produce these products to be attractive to consumers from both a quality and cost standpoint then it could be the optimal way to introduce the public to this technology of the future and get them comfortable with it so that when the time comes that these robots are building their new home they feel safe and excited to moving.As this technology improves new ideas constantly come along for applications that drastically improve the efficiency compared to traditional construction methods. 

Different Materials for Large Scale 3D Printing and 3D Printed Construction

Concrete is not the only material that people have been considering 3-D printing construction with. A company that goes by the name MX3D has developed a printer that is capable in printing large metal structures from a single robotic arm operating on polar coordinates. This company is based in Europe and has already demonstrated the viability and practicality of their printer by building a bridge over running water using their 3-D printer. The bridge is made completely out of metal and is strong enough to be driven over by cars. Printing in metal is a very exciting possibility for the future of automated construction.A big part of what makes metal so great for construction applications is that unlike concrete the metal hardens almost instantly therefore be printed in a horizontal line with no supports whatsoever. This unique feature and capability opens up a whole new realm of possibilities not just for the construction industry but 3-D printing as a whole.Although many homes are now built in concrete, especially in hot southern regions like Florida or Texas, there are some people who do not like the aesthetic of concrete. These people would prefer not to live in a concrete home even if the price is significantly cheaper. That is what makes the Swedish 3-D printing +project called so unique (1) this company is working on printing in cellulose.

Cellulose is considered a bio plastic it has strong insulating features and so unlike metal or concrete it is not cold to the touch in cold weather or hot to the touch in hot weather. Cellulose is actually what wood is made out of. Walls printed in cellulose would be far more comfortable feeling then one printed in cold concrete. The trick to printing in cellulose is mixing it with acetone. When the cellulose mixes with acetone it becomes liquefied and can then be printed. After the mixture of acetone and cellulose has come out of the printer the acetone quickly dissolves and evaporates into the air leaving you with just the solid cellulose. This technology has very exciting potential although judging by the progress that has been made thus far it is significantly more challenging to print with and more expensive than it’s concrete counterparts. There is also the slight risk that acetone could get on your home and melt it causing significant and potentially life-threatening damage however that is unlikely as acetone rarely if ever occurs in nature.

A big company called SOM has 3-D printed small office pods using plastic polymers. These polymers are weatherproof and the design of the office pods is quite aesthetic and modern. They are one of the few larger construction companies that have publicly demonstrated investments in 3-D construction technologies. It is very likely that in upcoming years large companies will pour more money into these types of products.It would be wise of construction equipment manufacturers like Caterpillar and John Deere to invest in these technologies to some degree as a 3-D printer capable of building a house could eliminate the need for many John deer or Catapillar products. It is likely that they could reach a Kodak like fate holding on to a dying technology until their last breath, as new comers in the industry takeover from incumbent giants the way digital photo technology and social media look over the photo and video capture industry. Kodak specialized in film and when the time came to adapt they failed. New technologies are an early warning to large equipment manufacturing companies to take automated construction technologies into the utmost consideration and monitor closely the progress of their peers.

(1) http://3dprint.com/76838/3d-printed-cellulose-houses/

3D Printed Construction in Space

NASA is holding a 3-D printer construction competition for applications in outer space specifically on Mars. Apis Cor has won in various segments of this competition. There are many other companies competing in this NASA Space construction competition yet Apis Cor continues to stand out among the crowd. Construction on Mars comes with its own set of challenges. The atmosphere of Mars is less protective from radiation in the atmosphere on earth. This means that in order to ensure the safety of a human being on Mars a building will need to shield the people inside from the radiation in the external environment. This also means that the buildings will need to be perfectly airtight if the outer shell is permeable then the structure will not be safe to inhabit on mars.

Another massive consideration when contemplating construction on Mars is the material that you will build with. Due to the astronomical costs of sending things in this space per pound, it would be extremely costly to ship in all of the building materials. It is likely that initial structures will have material shipped in but in order to sustainably build on Mars we will need to come up with material solutions that are made from Mars’s natural soil. This natural soil on Mars is called regolith. Regolith is made up of a variety of metals and other elements that can absolutely be used in construction. It has been hypothesized by Universities that regolith can be heated up to temperatures around 3500°C in order to burn off excess elements and leave only the strong building materials. Regolith is abundantly available on Mars so if we are able to team the soil on the planet of Mars into a practical construction material it will get us one step closer to establishing a human colony on what was once thought as an uninhabitable planet

The Future of Building Design Software

Currently there are many databases that contain STL files with the intention of being shared and printed. Website like thingiverse.com have thousands and thousands of models that you can simply download for free and print. On these websites you can find a wide variety of things ranging from small tools like a wrench or scissors to toys or other useful knickknacks. Every day people are adding more and more STL files to websites like thingiverse and as the community grows the quality and quantity of content and practical creations is increasing.

I envision future software for 3-D printed construction that is the one stop shop for all of your construction needs. This software will contain a seemingly limitless number of models that can be 3-D printed in the concrete. There will be models ranging from fireplaces and fountains to homes, stores and office spaces. People will be able to browse through these models, purchase them and have them printed in under a months time for cheaper than previously imaginable. This website or application will also include an editor feature. This editor will allow you to modify existing designs to your liking or create your very own from scratch. This is much easier said than done because there are some limitations to 3-D printing in concrete, the largest of which being that you cannot print in midair. Concrete must be laid on top of something or else it will simply fall to the ground. It is very likely that some architects will fight to keep this software from becoming a reality.

If you can create a software that guarantees structural security of a building then you largely eliminate the need have an architect at all. Software like this will empower the average person with the ability design a home to their exact liking and customization.

The Eminent Automation of Construction

Preceded only by water and food in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, shelter is one of the most important attributes in the pursuit of content for mankind. Every human being requires some form of shelter and there is a huge disparity in shelters quality and amenities comparing upper class Americans to developing nations who shelters are often made of scrap materials or dirt and straw.The construction industry is one of the oldest industries. It came before the written word and most ancient art and relics come in the form of architecture from different empires. Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Aztecs, and many more ancient civilizations all left behind unique architecture that cemented their place in history as powerful world leaders.

Innovation is happening today at a rate we have never before witnessed in history. Our constant improvement of computing technology and our ability to analyze data has given us access to information we never had before. The ability to share that data and content with anybody connected to the Internet has changed nearly every industry that operates in a competitive capitalist market. 

Think of the way Uber changed the taxi industry, or the way Apple changed the cell phone industry implementing an app store that granting nearly limitless potential to application developers went on to create $1 billion company all inside of the infrastructure of Apple’s App Store. The food industry has also been drastically changed. For the first time in history people are spending more money on the prepared food and beverages that groceries, eating food from restaurants rather than cooking at home. What caused this paradigm shift from making food yourself to ordering it, whether it be at a restaurant or via delivery service. Efficiency is the main driver of our innovation in all of these industries and technology is fuel of that innovation.How is it that the construction industry, one of the most necessary and everlasting industries has been so stagnant? When you examine the recent innovations in the construction industry almost all of them revolve around software. Software developments help people working on construction projects go through building drawings and spec sheets on a computer. BIM software helps you to visualize the construction of the building people have created robots that can give you a 3-D map of the interior and exterior of your building just by driving through the building. The other big segment of software that innovative construction was scheduling software.

Many like to playfully scoff at millennial’s for living with their parents even when many of them have achieved jobs that afford them a moderate lifestyle young people are having a hard time buying homes or are choosing not to, likely because the cost is so high. the number of years it takes to save up for the down payment on home on average is higher than its historically been. (1)(2)

Overseas, there are many regions that are severely and disproportionately impoverished in comparison to the rest of the world. Over 3 billion people live on less than $2.50 a day (3). For some cultures this is a lifestyle choice for others they do not see a clear path to a better lifestyle although they would give almost anything for the opportunity to improve their living conditions and well-being. 

The biggest innovation in construction of modern history was the skyscraper and although people continue building to new heights there is no tremendous world changing value in building skyscrapers that are 100+ stories.What the construction industry needs is a paradigm shift to automation in the pursuit of efficiency.

(1) https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2017/08/young-adults.html

(2) https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/05/24/479327382/for-first-time-in-130-years-more-young-adults-live-with-parents-than-partners

(3) http://www.globalissues.org/article/26/poverty-facts-and-stats

Wasp 3D

About the Company

WASP (World’s Advanced Saving Project) was founded in 2012 by its founder, Massimo Moretti, as a source of the CSP (Centro Sviluppo Progetti) company founded in 2003. The company is located in the city of Massa Lombarda near Bologna, Italy. WASP currently exists. of approx. 20 full-time employees and approx. 10 people working freelance. Of these, 4 people are employed to do R&D. They currently have reportedly a healthy and relatively steep growth curve. WASP develops innovative projects in a wide range of areas and has used 3D printers in almost every context as a way to achieve its goal. WASP generally has a vision of doing everything they can to save the world and is constantly using this vision to show the way in which new projects they will work on. Thus, WASP does not develop 3D printers for sale, but develops 3D printers to address specific needs to achieve their goals (saving the world). For all their purposes, they use the same types of 3D printer, where they then change the print head depending on the material they want to print with. Their printing method is called Delta printers, where the printer is controlled by three arms mounted on three vertical columns. The arms can then move up and down the columns depending on which direction the printer should move

The vision is to save the world and the way to do this is to fill a container with equipment for a 3D printer. The equipment must be so easy to handle that it can be done by a person from the third world without the person having any training. Using the 3D printer, you can make advanced equipment where the only thing the person (s) must do is feed the printer with printer material. Examples of items that the printer needs to make are medical equipment, chairs, tables and buildings / cabins. WASP focuses on Maker’s economy1, ie. focus on the use of local materials and in-house production. Consequently, there is no transport costs and thereby a reduction in CO2 consumption.

WASP has initiated many different development projects and has made them develop printers that can print in the following materials: – Plastics (dentures, chairs, tables, visualizations of products, etc.) – Ceramics (art, etc.) – Silicone (medical equipment, dentures, soles, etc.) – Smiles (goal: cabins) – Concrete (target: cabins) A few examples of their development projects are listed below:

Projects

1.2.1 Medical equipment (dentures, corsages, etc.): 1 http://www.wasproject.it/w/en/maker-economy/       3D Printers – State of the art Page 4 of 15   1.2.2 Plant cellar: Prototype of 3m tall plant basin where all the plants are watered from above and all the water runs through. 1.2.3 Toy printers (for teaching and play)    3D Printers – State of the Art Page 5 of 15    1.2.4 Chairs and tables 1.2.5 Plaster and ceramics (art, etc.)      3D Printers – State of the Art Page 6 of 15    1.2.6 Clay hut or concrete hut WASP wants to be able to print clay huts or concrete huts to provide shelter for people in the third world and therefore they have launched the BIG Delta WASP project, where they will print on a large scale and with clay or concrete, 

The company is 100% self-financing and finances their business through the sale of their 3D printers and WASP is experiencing great growth in sales of their 3D printers. In 2015, they sold approx. 1500 printers.

Printer

The technology / printer WASP generally uses a printer technology they call Delta. It is therefore the same principle they use for their large and “small” printers. It consists of 3 vertical columns which are placed on the radius of a circle and which have an angle of 120 degrees. Up and down of these vertical columns is mounted an arm which is connected to the printhead, which is basically located in the center of the circle. By moving the arms up and down, the print head can move in different directions and the three arms are coordinated so that the direction in X, Y and Z direction is completely controlled. Due to the sloping arms, some of the vibrations from the movement of the printer will be transformed into vertical movements and therefore WASP states that this technology can provide greater precision of the print than traditional “horizontal” printers. 2.1.1 Small Delta WASP The Small Delta WASP produces the fastest plastic printers on the market and can print up to 1000mm / s, which is 3 times faster than other printers. Massimo further indicated that they were aiming to double this rate over the next year. Another characteristic of their small printers (which are very sensitive to vibration due to the high speed) is that the extruder head is placed in elastics above the actual printer and therefore the weight of this extruder does not affect the vibrations in the printhead. The printers can print in layer thicknesses from 50 microns to 2-3mm for plastic printing. 2.1.2 BIG Delta WASP2 BIG Delta WASP is WASP’s large-scale print project in buildings / cabins. As previously described, WASP has a goal of being able to print buildings / cabins for groups in the third world. BIG Delta WASP has already held an event where they have set up a 12m high printer. This took place from 18-20. September 2015 in their hometown of Massa Lombarda.

WASP has orally been awarded a field by the mayor of the city where they can set up their BIG Delta printer. When we visited them on April 6, 2016, this was not approved in writing, so they were still waiting to be able to set up the printer again. We saw the printer in its packed form. We also saw their print head incl. container, mixer auger and auger rotor machine. Massimo’s experience with print with concrete was that it was of utmost importance that the concrete was constantly moving (brought forward). You cannot have a mix that is still in the container. That’s why he has good experiences with an open auger. The principle of supplying material is that the container is fed with material via a pump which is on the ground.      3D Printers – State of the Art Page 9 of 15   the outside printer and pump are fed with material from 2 pcs. concrete containers in the traditional way. Massimo told that the scaffold as their printer one is made of is very stable and it is actually not necessary to stiffen the system of bar stools. In addition, he indicated that the size of the printer is scalable, as the scaffold can only be increased or decreased as needed. Due to the very limited time in which they have actually had the printer standing, only very small items have been printed so far. In the coming future, when the printer is standing permanently, they will most likely gain a lot more experience with the printer and with large-scale printing. 2.1.2.1 BIG Delta WASP (scaled down) To gain experience with the clay and concrete materials, BIG Delta WASP has set up a smaller “large-scale” printer, see image below. This printer can print objects of approx. 1m in diameter and 1m in height.

Material

WASP already had good experiences with printing in concrete and they did not think it was a problem to mix a concrete that had the right density / viscosity, so that the material could be fed into the printer and at the same time, so it had a suitable hardness for the layers did not settle (the lower layers float out when the above layers add extra weight to them). Their experience was that preferably between 10-30 minutes should pass between each layer in order for the above relationship to be achieved. If there was more than 30 minutes, it was possible that there was no suitable connection between the layers (layering). Their experience was that it may be a problem for 10min between each layer to print small objects, but it should not be a problem for large objects and you rarely achieve more than 30 minutes. Massimo stated that he did not think there was a major problem in making a concrete that had the desired properties. They had not done pressure testing of the concrete yet, but had achieved a fine structure and bonding with the concrete they have used in the above pictures (though very fine grained concrete). They also had good experiences with printing clay. However, the WASP had faced some challenges in printing concrete containing Geopolymers3 instead of cement, but he thought they were quite far around this. By printing with geopolymers, the building’s CO2 footprint is reduced by approx. 80% compared to traditional cement based concrete. Massimo showed a piece of concrete made with geopolymers, see the picture below:

In August 2015, WASP completed its first major project with a concrete printer, namely a concrete beam cast in seven smaller sections, which are then subsequently assembled into one beam via reinforcing iron. The beam has been primarily used to test the 3D concrete prints principles. In September 2015, for the first time, WASP erected its 12m high concrete printer at a 3 day event where the printer was primarily shown and very small concrete castings were cast. The event was primarily a PR event.  In the future, WASP wants to build housing for third world countries in local materials.