3D Printing Houses from Concrete

We’ve seen 3D-printed houses before, but most make use of prefabricated chunks. This hurricane and tornado resistant hotel suite in the Philippines was printed in one shot.

Sound familiar? This is the work of [Andrey Rudenko], who started by building a concrete 3D printer in his garage 2 years ago, moved on to 3D printing his kids a concrete castle in his backyard later that year and now appears to have a full-blown company offering commercial 3D printed houses. Way to go [Andrey]!

The building was designed in Sketchup no less, and the printer makes use of Pronterface for the control software. It’s absolutely fascinating to see this built at full-scale. We want one.

The project was made possible by an eccentric entrepreneur named [Lewis Yakich], once an engineer at Intel, now a real-estate magnate in the Philippines. He enlisted the help of [Andrey] to build this new 3D printed expansion to his pre-existing Lewis Grand Hotel. But they have their sights set even higher — on manufacturing more printers and revolutionizing the low-income housing market in the Philippines.

All in all, they expect they will be able to print a house like this in under a week, with massive cost savings compared to traditional methods.

[Thanks for the tip Uminded!]

84 thoughts on “3D Printing Houses from Concrete

  1. Finally towards the end they actually seemed to put some rebar in the wall cavities, I sincerely hope they actually had a lot more than the pictures seemed to show and they had horizontal reinforcement, or that house is going to be obnoxiously weak, and a complete code failure in many places even if they don’t get tornadoes or hurricanes.

    1. They’re only printing the hollow shell that will later be filled You can see the ties between the two layers in these photos:
      http://nebula.wsimg.com/2c5ef4fb5864176b28c99ef56776c570?AccessKeyId=0478136B38FFA3C8FF72&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

      http://nebula.wsimg.com/b019b7fea3cf2720b646b61b39446b1c?AccessKeyId=0478136B38FFA3C8FF72&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

      I think that rebar pattern likely doesn’t follow best practices, but you get the idea.

      1. that’s because it is not rebar pattern, that’s just ties to tie the two printed walls to each other.

        it adds some strength, but not the same as using rebar properly.

        Overall I think two things…
        first, this is actually really cool, it’s pretty good to see this what seems like a nice house coming together, that it’s not just straight walls, the extra forms that are available/constructable with the 3d printed walls are pretty awesome. I imagine that it’s be a great house to look at, and nice to live in.

        but on the negatives… it’s, well, not got a lot of re-enforcement in there that anyone can see.

        the video shows that the different layers seem to go on 10 – 20 at a time, (I guess this is a couple of feet), then it needs to cure before you can keep piling more concrete on top…

        and that’s where the end of the video get peculiar….
        Awesome 3d printed house, (but we won’t show you all the cure times for the layers, we won’t show in the video the amount of time taken to setup what must be a huge gantry that goes over the whole footprint of the house two hold the print head. we won’t show you the manual labor involved in laying the wall ties. nor the rendering.)

        but we will contrast that to what looks like three guys building a house in block work, (where you can add several feet of wall per day) mixing by hand onsite…

        comparing a many thousand dollar machine that pumps concrete to where it is needed is just not a good comparison to three guys mixing by hand, and standing on oil drums to lift hods of cement to pour beams!

        it would have been a much better comparison to compare to a professional builder. with decent scaffold setup, machinery (fork lifter) to bring pallets of blocks to work height, and a truck pumping, pre-mixed cement to where it is needed….

        I see why they did not compare like for like cost wise (because then their printer would look like a pretty poor time consuming way of doing construction.) but overall the comparison is just disingenuous. – to the point where it is a lie.

        1. Unfortunately that is how houses are made in most of ASEAN countries, including this guy’s and mine. And not only small or low-income houses, but even many rich dudes’ castle-like houses are built this way. I think only 3+ story buildings are made by professional builders.

          So, circumstances considered, maybe this many thousand dollar machine can actually be a solution for us, even if it doesn’t bring any advantage to you guys in developed countries.

          1. I don’t doubt that houses are built like that… and it’s not specific to your country.
            (my dad was a builder, and he has worked for someone as only a team of two building a house… it can be very manually intensive)

            the point I was making is more:

            If you have a spare (fifty? hundred? thousand)? dollars of custom machinery (or more) equipment to mix concrete to a uniform consistency and concrete pumps to actually get the slurry to the nozzle, then it would make sense to compare like with like…
            in the case of the video, it looks really labor intensive because the guys are shifting concrete by hand… the 3d printer would also be pretty slow if it had a hopper that had to be loaded with wet cement by hand!

        2. This is just a printed form. It is later filled with rebar and high strength concrete. It is exactly the same, as far as strength, as any other concrete building, but without human labor to build it, and with curves, shapes, etc… printed in from the start without custom forms.

        3. the walls are hollow, once electrical conduit and plumbing are installed the wall can be rebarred and filled with foamed concrete for strength and insulation.

          just my take on it … and yes foamed concrete is a thing and structurally sound

        4. The comparison is because this is a hotel printed in the Philippines and the comparison is how all buildings here are built so it is fair. Also this 3D printed hotel is stronger and more durable than most buildings in the US. I grew up in the US doing concrete construction and now live in the Philippines and have seen how this is done. The financial backer of this project is an former engineer for Intel turned real estate magnate and they are now trying to mass produce the 3d printer to make low cost homes.

    2. I love how there is always one person on this site that thinks they know better and a person is doing something wrong and they feel like they thought of something that no one else has thought of. Yea, you’re that special snowflake alright…

      1. I think that the more eyes there are on a problem then more issues are found and more solutions to those issues can be found.
        The special snowflakes are the ones that present a perfect solution right out of the box.
        I think ties should be incorporated into the layers as it is printed.
        Also foamed concrete could be used between the walls.

        1. I think you should mix glass fibre into the concrete during the print. The fibres will align themselves with the extrusion and provide some tensile strength to the concrete, necessary to withstand the weight of the concrete infill pour.

          1. Combine this with that “cocoon” printer that prints string, and have it feed glass fibers (or even metal cables) continuously into the concrete from a spool. That would help reinforce the layers, at least horizontally.

            I didn’t see what’s moving the extruder, but it must be huge. Did he rig a crane for CNC control?

    3. This is revolutionary. Fuck the building codes. The codes will have to adapt for everything except physics. As in the concrete should be tested for strength, structural regards(this doesn’t have to be house to house but rather system based, etc. If this provides the a person of modests means a much easier way to have a home, then so be it. Codes or not. My complaint with codes is that so many of them anymore have to do with aesthetics and esoteric crap. If codes are truly about safety, as they should be, then an ugly house is more than acceptable.

      1. Building codes ARE about safety. They’re about ensuring that whole neighborhoods don’t collapse in a moderate earthquake, and whole cities don’t burn down. They ensure that you are not exposing firemen to undue risk when they try to save your substandard shack and your family within it. Concrete without reinforcement has poor tensile and shear strength, which is why steel reinforcement is required by code in most applications. When you use new materials or old materials in a new way, the design has to be proven by engineering analysis. Building codes are just a shortcut to analyzing the structural integrity of a design, so that it doesn’t cost tens of thousands of dollars to prove each structure’s safety. I don’t know of any building codes that are about aesthetics; perhaps you’re confusing them with neighborhood homeowners’ association customs and covenants.

      2. There is literally nothing in the codes about aesthetics. Codes are entirely about safety, and accessibility. You can easily build an ugly house that is completely code-compliant. The codes do allow for innovation, but those innovations need to be tested by a testing agency.

  2. Show me the machine! Seriously, try find images of the actual machine that is doing this, it’s impossible. Only end results and closeups.
    a) I’m curious how it looks
    b) I’m curious how much manual labor is involved

  3. in any market where regulation wouldnt squash this design like a bug, the cost of a concrete home will never be cost parity with traditional materials-mostly because wherever income is low, “traditional” does not mean processed concrete slurry. Still looks like a “first world solution” to a “3rd world problem” thing.

    usually in a disaster situation, someone local can use indigenous materials and labor to produce a lot more than a single small dwelling in a week.

    What the inventor needs to do is to get this to work with regolith and in a vacuum under extreme temperature fluctuations, or work with Martian materials for the concrete. Wherever there is no labor and any building material needs extreme processing anyway, is where this would work best.

    1. Yeah, regolith. Either a small crew or only robots could be sent to set up the construction process to build a Moon or Mars base, then the robots alone do the printing. Initial labor costs in these place would be … no, I won’t say it, but they’d be extremely high, so any automation would be a much greater savings than on Earth.

      Okay, I will say it – the word would be “astronautical”.

        1. Reminds me of the essay by Richard Feynman; where he writes that financial people should not use the word “astronomical” to describe huge amounts of money, but that astrophysicists and astronomers should the term “financial” to describe great distances. B^)

        2. At first I meant ‘astronomical’, but since we’re talking about the cost of labor, I thought ‘astronautical’ would be more appropriate. Have you SEEN how much it costs to train and transport astronauts to the moon?

    2. Except, concrete needs water. there is “some” speculated to be on Mars and The Moon, but enough at any one site to pour a building? What about temperature extremes during curing? What about the vacuum sucking a lot of the water out before it cures…

      1. Presumably, it would take a custom mix, since regolith is not the same as portland cement. This mix would have to take these elements into account. Maybe an epoxy-regolith mix, no water involved. Of course, then you have to either ship a whole lot of epoxy or make THAT on site.

      2. what’s the temperature needed to fuse regolith? perhaps a hotend running a liquid sodium (or something less corrosive?) from a coolant loop from a nearby reactor? :) Take the dust and fuse it in place?

  4. Unless I missed it, there was no mention of the “how”, of how they resolved the *time* variable involved in properly preparing and pouring concrete. Those huge ass cement mixers you see with the big mixing bowls, they are on-the-clock (to get to the job site ASAP). If they don’t, guess what? all that concrete becomes unusable. The onsite architect/engineer will always (if they’re doing their job properly) test a sample before the pour.

    How do they properly test for “slump” (and a host of other variables, the least of which is proper strength). If I spec out, a 6000 psi structure how do we know the mix (at that time) will meet spec ?

  5. For once I get to be the “yea” sayer. This looks like a fantastic advancement in building technology. They ARE kind of cheating in one way, though: in depicting the “traditional” method, they’re showing filling the cinder block wall with concrete, by hand. They don’t show that the 3D printed structure also has to have steel reinforcement added (probably by hand) and the gaps filled in with concrete, which will be the same as with the traditional method, although I assume the 3D printer can do the filling as well. All of this, as well as the plumbing and wiring, still has to be done just as before. So the only differences are 1) the 3D printing takes the place of setting the cinder blocks (which goes up pretty quickly in traditional construction), and 2) you’re not constrained to straight walls like you are with cinder blocks.

    The question is, how does this compare with the ugly tilt-up slab process that’s used in the US so widely? Could multiple 3D printers work on one project simultaneously, or would their support structures get in each others’ way? It seems like for very large structures, they could be printed using a checkerboard pattern, with each square handled by one printer. First all the black squares are done, then the printers moved and all the white squares done.

    1. I’d rather use those polystyrene forms. With this you have to print two walls out of concrete, fill it with rebar, then fill the middle. With the polystyrene you build the form with the rebar in it then one concrete pour. Plus there’s the added benefit of insulation and being able to chase cables easily.

  6. Without and decent size aggregate (ballast) this is going to be nothing more than a weak cement mix. Concrete gets its strength from the mix of cement and ballast. Cement on its own or just mixed with sand gives you a mortar mix that has very little strength.

    1. Yes, I recall from my little bit of Combat Engineering (building roads, runways, bridges and buildings for military use) that concrete needs a balanced variety of sizes of rocks mixed in for strength. The gravel sample needs to be run through sieves to make sure there is enough quantity of each size.

    2. This is just the outer form for the walls. Once it’s finished, rebar is added and high strength cement is poured into the space between these outer walls. It is absolutely no different from a standard concrete building… except that the forms aren’t removed after the main concrete pour.

      1. Which makes the comparison in the video disingenuous, since the part of “traditional” construction they’re showing is filling in the blocks with concrete. Unless this printer also serves as a concrete pumper, it’s still going to take scaffolding and hod carriers to do the infill. And by the way, we don’t get enough of a picture of the machine to see how the mortar is being mixed and loaded. For all we know, it’s being mixed by hand and loaded with buckets and ladders.

  7. Very proud to have helped with the stepper motor drivers for Andreys printers. And… there is a /second/ group in the USA now making a concrete house printer, with our drivers as well, and… they are selling a kit if you want to do it yourself!

      1. NEMA 42 stepper motors WITH THE RIGHT DRIVER are very very powerful. Especially at low speeds, and this thing doesn’t need to move fast. Servos are great when you need to move really fast, or large loads fast, but steppers do quite well with large loads slowly.

        And, as it happens, we are madly at work on a servo driver. We are about to release an encoder that will cost less than $20 and provide 360 steps per revolution (not fantastic, but good enough) at up to 75,000 RPM (unbeatable!). That will quickly be joined by a PID controller that will be in the same price range… maybe a bit more… and then a series of motor drivers, starting with a DC motor driver and eventually adding a 3 phase driver.

  8. I read “3D Printing Houses for chocolate”. I must be hungry. This is still cool though although I feel there may be limited applications for it for everyday people. Where labour is cheap, labour would be used. Where labour is expensive I feel that people would be demanding different materials.

    1. Too late… note this is in the PI, not the USA. It’s already been run out of our country by a patent hog. The second group (click my name) is selling a kit to avoid legal issues… you buy the kit, you print your own home, not someone elses.

  9. This would probably work better in conjunction with a block laying robot working off of a flat bed. it “prints” some mortar, the block bot lays down cinder blocks. all the strength benefits of conventional cinder block construction, with relative speed. (could even be done better than a week.)

    1. Both methods could make a house in a day. The problem is – concrete and mortar don’t dry fast enough and you need to wait after placing X layers. Maybe something like ytong would be faster?

      1. There’s still a type of mortar between the Ytong blocks. The layer is very thin and because of the block size, you have about 2-3 times less gaps then with bricks, but you still need the mortar and it needs to HARDEN first, only THEN can it dry out…

  10. The vast majority of houses here are poured, re-enforced concrete. Setting up the scaffolding, shuttering, installing the re-enforcing steel, pipe work and electrical ducting takes up the vast majority of the build time. If printing a house could incorporate the steel, pipe and duct work then I can see this being a huge step forward in build time. The banding in the concrete is irrelevant as there is 12″ plus of insulating foam on the outside and the interior is, of course,plastered.
    Given the rather high labour costs here (Switzerland) the cost saving could be very significant.

    1. 12″ of foam insulation is standard construction in sweden? That exceeds passive house standards and and to my knowledge it would dwarf the standard insulating practice of any region on earth. I find it hard to beleive. This would mean window and door cavities are on the order of 16″ deep, standard? Didn’t appear to be remotely near that in my time in several towns in 2014. Where did you get this information?

    1. Ytong (AAC) can be built as just fast, the slowest thing is waiting for the concrete foundation slab to harden, then it’s all about having everything else ready on a pile next to the site.

    1. Using traditional methods yes, it would be targeting high end custom houses, but using this method it can use shapes and forms to reinforce the structure rather than using more bulk to reinforce. Like building a tunnel with the good old “egg shaped” section rather than beams and columns. Simplicity leads the way.

      Most of the comments here show extreme envy and rejection to anything new. As if only the old brick and mortar (or timber and paneling) are OK.

      Also most of the commentators ignore the fact that there are skilled and qualified building engineers all over the world … including the Philippines!!
      Sublime arrogance I would say.

  11. If i’m looking for a fast house with bad finish i would go for metal ones.. from conatainers or like warehouses. That is fast to deploy and can also be “well finished” fast and cheap..

  12. This is amazing technology that will revolutionize how homes and even cities are made. This type of construction after a natural disaster would be wonderful. Could quickly re-establish buildings and infrastructure and save lives. Imagine a leveled city and the struggles to maintain power sewer water etc. With this technology governments could helicopter in even to remote areas and the printers could establish base and start to rebuild saving lives. Also rebuilding homes etc strong and affordable. People keep saying it’s expensive well now it is but as it is developed it will be extremely affordable. I’ll put it like this! Car phones 21 years ago. I wanted one that needed a special antenna to the car. I couldn’t move it from the car it was a 3 year contract 1200 deposit and 650-750$ for the phone and then 150 minute plan 125.00 a month then 1.25 a minute over and if I roamed it was 2.00 a minute plus any applicable charges. On top of that almost no coverage area.

    Now usually no contract 45-50 a month phone can take everywhere and has internet etc. if your old enough you remember AOL and paying for dial up 14.4 bps by the minute.

    So I hope to invest in this tech anyone know the stock tickers of this company? Or companies like this?

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