Man Builds Concrete 3D Printer in His Garage

[Andrey Rudenko] is building a house in his garage. Not with nails and lumber, but with concrete extruded by his 3D printer. We’ve seen concrete 3D printers in the past, but unlike those projects, [Andrey] isn’t part of a of a university or corporation. He’s just a contractor with a dream. His printer is directly derived from the RepRap project. It’s even commanded by Pronterface.

[Andrey] started with an Arduino Mega 2560 based RepRap RAMPS style controller. His big printer needed big NEMA34 stepper motors, far beyond the current capacity of the stock RAMPS stepper drivers. [Andrey] got in touch with [James] at MassMind who helped him with an open source THB6064AH based driver. [James] even came up with an adaptor cable and PCB which makes the new drivers a drop-in replacement.

Now that his printer was moving, [Andrey] needed a material to print. Concrete chemistry is a science all its own. There are many specialty blends of concrete with specific strength and drying times. Trucking in custom mixtures can get expensive. [Andrey] has come up with his own mixture based on bags of regular concrete mix, sand, and some additives. [Andrey's] special sauce doesn’t cure especially quickly, but it is viscous enough to print with.

Every piece of [Andrey's] printer had to be designed and refined, including the nozzle. The concrete printer works somewhat like a frostruder, extruding concrete in 20mm wide by 5mm tall layers. He’s even managed to print overhanging layers and arches exactly like a giant RepRap Mendel.

The printer’s great unveiling will be this summer. [Andrey] plans to print a playhouse sized castle over the course of a week. He’s looking to collaborate with architects, builders, and other like-minded folks. We’d suggest uploading the project to  Hackaday.io!

An example of the printer’s output:

beginnings-of-3D-printed-playhouse

[Andrey's] printer today:

 

One of  [Andrey's] early prototypes:

85 thoughts on “Man Builds Concrete 3D Printer in His Garage

  1. This is a really cool project, but how sturdy could those pieces possibly be? I can’t imagine the concrete is very strong when printed in layers like that. Unless he plans on filling the spaces in between the sidewalls I feel like you could demolish the walls with your bare hands using little effort. The big benefit from printing would be from how much less concrete you would have to use since you can do the same thing by filling wood molds of each piece you need to make. The printed concrete is essentially the wood mold you would make. Yes, it would be easier printing complex shapes that would be hard to reproduce with wood, but most thing can be broken down into simple parts. I just don’t see this being cost or time beneficial in most cases.

    Either way, it is great to see creative thinking at work. I don’t know a lot about concrete in general so I may be completely wrong with my assumptions. I’d love to see more in the future.

    1. Fiber reinforced concrete seems to be a thing in the building industry (but fairly pricy)…If one could get the fibers to stick out of the printed layer, the next one would have something to adhere to…

      Or you could just fill the hollow structures with something like glass reinforced polyurethane foam :D

    2. The layers make no difference. One layer bonds to the next just as concrete does without layers. The nozzle output is 20mm x 5mm, the bessa blocks in my house are only 20mm thick. Moving one step ahead and making it so that higher blocks have interlock tabs with blocks below would be a great time saver and you could have blocks of any shape.

      1. The nice thing about using this for ghost houses is that, since no one is actually living in them, you don’t have to worry about how well this completely uncertified (and, likely, minimally tested) building method stands up against things like tornadoes, hurricanes, or earthquakes. Also, as Menno is suggesting, since the Chinese have done it any further development of similar technology is a complete waste of time and the guy in this Hackaday post should be ashamed of himself. /s

        1. You should be ashamed of yourself for putting down his efforts. Nothing is perfect in the beginning, and he’s doing it in a garage without a bazillion dollars of venture capital behind him.

          1. Umm, I can’ tell if you’re trying to be serious but the “/s” at the end of my post stands for sarcasm. I was knocking on the absurdity of Mennos suggestion that some company in China doing this already has anything to do with whether this guy should be bothering to spend time working on this project.

      1. Have you ever seen rural china? Glorified Tool Sheds are pretty common living quarters, just like they were in the USA 50-70 years ago. An ex-nuke-sub engineer named jimmy put a lot of effort into getting rid of a lot of the shacks here in the states, and he wrote a book called “no more shacks” to detail his VERY successful approach to the problem. We still have lots of people living in ancient mobile homes – and many old folks do this on purpose. I prefer bricks and lumber myself, but this is the future – no matter how lame it looks.

        China has to climb all the same rungs we had to climb, and anybody who thinks they’ll never be able to catch up or get ahead of us will be Surprised. We’re in the same position as Britain was – once the yankees stopped simply stealing everyone’s designs and churning out cheap knockoffs, the balance of power shifted. China is in the same position America was100 years ago, and they’ll eventually develop some decent products.

        If they’re lucky, the products will last longer than the amount of time it takes to get hungry again.

  2. Once the printed walls have cured you could easily trowel on more concrete to smooth the outside then paint or render it to your liking.

    Power and water could be easily run through the inside and then filled with any medium you like, foam for insulation, concrete for strength, dirt for low cost.

    Definately an awesome 3D printer hack (cos filament is too mainstream ;-)

    1. It may be possible to add an attachment to the nozzle. Angled sheet metal on either side to trowel the concrete as it is printing.

      1. I was thinking exactly the same thing. If it could at least be smoothed enough to make rendering easy.

        I’m curious if he could place in blockouts for power points etc. and print around them.

    1. No hurry. I don’t see the Chinese making concrete structures and shipping them over here. They will make structures for themselves over there and we will make structures for ourselves over here. We might end up using Chinese made machinery to do it but only if it is high value and appropriate for our needs. Otherwise we’ll get machines made in Germany, Isreal, India, Mexico… etc…. or heaven-forbid, the United States. :-)

  3. Would be less time consuming to just print the curved sections and use normal concrete blocks for the straight sections…

    1. Or you can let it print the straight sections too so you got more free time and aren’t manually handling concrete blocks or bricks.

      Having worked that kind of manual job for far too long, if a machine can print it saving me doing it by hand even if its slower then it’s a winner in my book.

      1. Yeah, time has a different value depending on *whose* time. I can supervise multiple machines, but I only have two hands to lay blocks with.

        1. I can imagine totes (pallet size, 4′ high) of dry mix loaded onto a hopper with a forklift and automatically mixed on-site for the 3D house printer. Workers just go in to assemble the gantry before the build and adding rebar during the print. What a fascinating sight that would make!

          1. I bet bending rebar and adding it to concrete is something you could automate pretty easily. You’d need some sort of monitoring, perhaps remotely, with sensors that check where each bit of rebar goes, and x-ray or ultrasound it later. Something like that. Long as you can check up, and demolish and re-do bits if they go wrong. And that’s easily done by making construction modular.

          2. Quite frankly, I would prefab the rebar sections (after the slicing program spits out all of the designs needed. Then when it goes to print layers with rebar, place two lines parallel to make a butt joint like so =><=. Rebar gets placed into the butt joint. The previous and following layers would be zig zags to aid in binding

    2. only if you think it takes the same man hours. the printing takes 0 man hours, as the operator can sit there and drink beer all night long while it prints. Laying brick takes 4 guys heavy labor to do it at the same speed.

      1. You’ve never run a 3D printer have you? Longer prints incur more liability (if something messes up you lose a bigger print). Bigger prints require more of this “special sauce” concrete, so you’ll probably be spilling your beer while you mix to keep up. A wall made of concrete blocks is more likely to pass existing building codes than whatever this guy cooked up.

        1. Modern trucks will mix dry ingredients with water as needed. I don’t think it’s a far leap to think one of those trucks could be directly tied into the printer.

          1. Sure, but a better way would be to let it mix small batches instead of one big one. You will not be very happy once the concrete sets in the machine. On top of that, you want a mix that is stiff enough for the next layer in less than one layer-time.

  4. Looks like cement to me not concrete. The aggregate in concrete would have trouble getting through the nozzle.

    1. The nozzle looks big enuf to deal with aggregate just with the 5mm layer thickness the nozzle will take a beating if you dont use a fine enough grade of stone.

    2. Depends, it mentions he was using sand so maybe that’s what he’s using for the aggregate material? It definitely isn’t just ordinary concrete, but there’s a lot of variants out there

      1. I was looking the other day, no real reason, on the web about aerated concrete. It’s manufactured with bubbles of hydrogen, which eventually becomes air through diffusion, all through it. It’s much lighter than concrete, but still pretty strong. I think it’s more for fill-in than load-bearing. It uses sand as it’s only aggregate. Even if some man-labour is required, if 3D printing cuts down a lot, that’s a good thing.

        I’m in favour of machines taking people’s jobs. People don’t need jobs. They need money. An ideal world would have robots doing nearly everything, and money shared out equally. An ideal future would have 90% unemployment, and everyone living on a decent amount of money they get for just being human. It’d be a renaissance! The 18th / 19th Century economy is long past it’s time to die! Let us pluck televisions from the trees! We deserve Arcadia!

        1. Equalize out money and another resource will become barter. The desire to have more than another is simply human nature. it ALWAYS will be, no matter what you do.

          And it’s not greed if you work for it.

        2. Aerated concrete is very common, snice concrete absorbs water, the small spaces allow for freezing water expansion that would otherwise damage the concrete.

  5. I think it would be more productive to print or rout out forms and use them to make blocks of any shape. This is going to be less time consuming and you can get any surface texture needed.
    But this is very cool!

  6. So at the scale of an actual house, how much of a risk is there of tens of years down the line, significant shifts in the ground causing cracks in the (presumably continuous) concrete walls?

    1. 140%… Sorry that’s exaggerating, probably only 110%..

      You would need to print it in sections, or go back and cut expansion joints/reliefs.
      What could be interesting is the design of those joints could be odd shapes and printed in place (think 3d jigsaw that can’t be taken apart).

  7. well, cracks can kill the game. concrete alone is not sturdy enough, i think. that’s why steel reinforced concrete was invented. obviously it’s not easy to 3d print steel rods and structures into the walls layer by layer, but one could mix some kind of fibres into the cement… but even then it will be still weaker.

      1. Yep, he clearly put some type of rebar in there (pretty thin gauge but I know nothing about gauge requirements with concrete).

        I’m more interested in how well this will hold up without larger aggregates in the mix?

        1. also the intent is not to have a robot build an entire house for you, it’s a 3d printer, and the same limitations apply to it as would an ordinary one. it’s not built for mass production of trinkets or fancy houses and perfect arches. it’s not going to be able to print the florence cathedral dome or anything. but it WILL change the game on custom shapes. think about geodesical dome houses. or honeycomb shapes within the wall to provide natural insulation. this isn’t a tool to create townhouses quickly. it’s not a tool to create an entire wall without the interference of a laborer. but it is a tool to make shapes we would have a hard time doing, faster, more consistently, and with the ability to fix it. if the concrete hasn’t set up yet, why not scoop it into a mixer and add it to the next batch?

    1. Worth noting that rebar is the bane of concrete everywhere. Rust limits the effective life of concrete to 50-100 years and that is only with expensive maintenance.

      The Pantheon, on the other hand, is still standing after 2000 years.

  8. This looks cool!

    I’m wondering about strength without reo.

    Maybe polypropylene fibres mixed in?
    Or “wood wool”?

    1. Depends on how it’s used, and where the forces are. If you have only have straight down compressive forces, re bar won’t do much. It’s used in bridge beams and roads because the flexing forces would destroy it without the reinforcing bars.

  9. Lafarge has a proprietary concrete mix called Ductal that has internal reinforcement and is far stronger in compression and in tension than conventional reinforced concrete. This seems like an appropriate application

    1. This is called extrudable ECC concrete, it is already used for making concrete pipe, it was developed specifically for extrusion.

  10. Try mixing in some Glycol (anti-freeze if you can’t get your hands on the pure stuff) along with some fiber glass to get quick dry times and a better bonding between layers. In construction we called it pouring hot. Little tricky but will cut your drying times WAY down.

    1. One other side thought, wonder what shredded tires mixed into the slurry would do to alleviate the flex felt over years. I know that on the last job I worked on they were using a combination of fiber fill and foam beads (think Styrofoam) to add strength, flexibility, and lower the weight ratio. Though this stopped us from pouring hot as the glycol ate the foam.

  11. You want to do something useful in the construction industry with cnc, create one that makes contractors show up when promised, and bring jobs to fruition on time and at the bid price.

  12. as it is it could be used for decorative ponds, planters, retaining walls… just a few things off the top of my head.

  13. The advantage here is that you could select a design, book a slot and have a pourer come around and por your design for you. A house seems a bit of a pointless activity, but garden ranges, pools, walls, etc, would all work well.

  14. man that is wierd, i literally just stumbled across this project elsewhere after looking for a 3A version of the Allegro stepper driver and coming across this other THB6064AH chip, to a driver board to this project. circle of life.

  15. seems like it would be better to make a 3D printer that prints the FORM for the item (using expandable foam or something like that), then just use regular concrete pouring methods to make the actual product.

    1. Perhaps. But this man is doing his solution right now, and your good idea is only just an idea. You need to do things to get things done you know. Only making mistakes will show you a new unknown way to do things, AKA progress.

  16. The “concrete” looks to be similar to the Portland/sand/water grout that is use to line steel pip,e colloquially called cement lined pipe/tubing by many. In the event I wanted concrete walls, I’d go with blocks or pour on site if the walls aren’t so tall to require slip forms to to do the pour.

  17. Okay, we’re missing the point. It’s a concept. It has the potential to improve life.

    Honestly, add a pick and place style bricklayer with a unit like this and you’d have a home you’d love to stay in. Who’s with me?

    1. Absolutely!

      I’ll bet 90% of the nay-sayers have NEVER mix cement or concrete, let alone build a house, hut or even a wall.

      A few of us built a “poachers hut” in the middle of now where, no steel reo, local sand, unwashed, just sieved out the fines and dust, carried water in 20 litre jerry cans, mixed it on a piece of old galv.
      The “form work” was an old wooden door I cut in half with a chainsaw.

      20 years later, it’s STILL there!!!

  18. Thomas Edison would have thought of this as Way-Cool given his extreme passion for concrete, starting each day with a bowl full of it each breakfast. :-) Although I’m more of a Tesla fan, I too think this is Way-Cool

    I suppose they wouldn’t sell well, but this builder could 3d print discount custom tombstones as long as the letters/numbers are big enough. :-)

  19. A nice addition would be to add drive able blades to shape the concrete below while doing an additional layer pass. Could get rid of the ridges.

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