Jul 5, 2018

3D Concrete Printing – Most Promising Projects

You've heard of 3D printers making plastic models, but how about 3D printers that print concrete houses? With amazing implications for the future of housing and construction, here's an overview of 3D concrete printing and its most promising projects.

What is 3D Concrete Printing?

Most 3D concrete printers work much the same way as your average FDM printer does — just scaled up 50 times and with wet concrete instead of a plastic spool. Instead of printing on a metal bed, however, the printer uses the ground as a bed, depositing lines of concrete layer by layer in whatever pattern specified. Some science is required to make sure the freshest layer of concrete bonds properly with the one below it, creating a sturdy structure to be used as a house, bench, or whatever else you can dream of. 

There’s still a long way to go before the technology is fully realized and matured, but 3D concrete printing has a lot of potential. It could significantly speed up construction and cut costs for housing, create temporary homes for refugees, or reduce the need for human labor in the construction industry. Whatever happens, the field of 3D concrete printing is definitely an interesting one to watch.

1. 3D Printed Hotel Room

Thinking of booking a vacation somewhere? Why not stay in a hotel room created with a 3D printer? The Lewis Grand Hotel in the Philippines decided to expand by building more rooms with a concrete 3D printer. Lewis Yakich, the owner of the hotel, and Andrey Rudenko, an experienced concrete 3D printing expert, worked together to make the house a reality in 2015.

With two bedrooms, a living room, and also a special jaccuzzi room (3D printed jaccuzzi included!), printing the house took some 100 hours of laying down concrete. During construction, the printer was periodically stopped to allow workers to install plumbing and electricity.

All in all, it took just a week to finish construction of the 1500 square foot house, though months of planning went into the design and logistics of printing. The finished product looks just like any other traditionally constructed building, an impressive feat. Read more about it here.

2. Dubai 3D Printed Office Building

The Dubai Future Foundation constructed the so-called “Office of the Future” in 2016. Sitting near the Emirates Towers, the project is just one part of a larger initiative to use 3D printing to improve people’s lives in Dubai.

Designed as the ideal futuristic office, the building has spaces for both creative teamwork and more focused solitude. Originally a temporary office space for the Future Foundation, the building now houses a cafe and all-purpose area for exhibitions, events, and workshops.

According to the project manager, labor costs were cut by 50% compared to traditional buildings of the same size. With just 19 days to print and assemble the concrete and 3 months to furnish and complete electrical work, this is just one case study demonstrating how 3D concrete printing can significantly aid the construction industry. 

3. Netherlands 3D Printed Concrete Home

The city of Eindhoven in the Netherlands plans to construct five homes as a joint effort between a local architectural firm and the Eindhoven University of Technology. Construction work begins this year and should be completed by mid-2019. Aptly dubbed “Project Milestone“, this will be the first commerical housing in the world based on 3D concrete printing.

According to the creators, the homes have different shapes to blend in with the nature around it, like a modern-day Stonehenge. Each house becomes more and more complex, exploring the limits of concrete printing and learning from the process of the previous one. The first house has a single story with three rooms, while the others will have multiple floors.

The houses were designed especially with the 3D concrete printing process in mind. Shaped like pods, such curves would be difficult to recreate with the normal concrete-pouring method, since a mold in that specific shape has to be used. But using a 3D printer, this futuristic-looking design is easy to achieve, freeing architects from previous design constraints in pretty amazing ways.

4. 3D Concrete Printed Castle

Andrey Rudenko, the same man who helped with 3D concrete printing the hotel room above, designed and printed his own mini-castle in his backyard in 2014. Measuring 3 by 5 meters, the castle is complete with turrets, towers, and a surprising amount of architectural detail. The tops of the towers and turrets were printed separately and then manually put into place.

With help from the RepRap community, Rudenko spent about two years to complete the project. If designing and concrete 3D printing the castle wasn’t hard enough, he also designed and built the 3D concrete printer itself.

Starting with a typical plastic-printing printer, he experimented with expanding the printer larger and larger. He tried several different cement mixes before hitting on the right one, and spent months calibrating the printer to draw precise lines at an efficient speed. The fruit of his labor is this impressive mini-castle.

Now, he’s working on improving his concrete printer design and looking for other projects to work on. For more information, check out his website.

5. 3D Printed Cheap Housing

US-based 3D concrete printing company ICON partnered with the non-profit New Story to try to bring affordable homes to people who don’t have any. They focus especially on those affected by poverty or natural disasters.

With each house taking only 24 hours to construct, whole communities of houses can be built quickly as emergency or temporary housing. The houses are cheap, too: Each house costs $10,000, and the company hopes to lower the price to $4,000 per house in the future.

Currently, their first house is being tested in Texas as an office space, to make sure all is well before letting people move in. Then the printer will move to El Salvador to construct its first community. Each house will have a bedroom, living room, bathroom, and porch.

License: The text of "3D Concrete Printing – Most Promising Projects" by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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