A man's house is his 3d printed castle
November 17, 2014 9:28 PM   Subscribe

The first concrete 3-D printed building in the world was completed in a Minneapolis, Minn. suburb in August, 2014. Engineer Andrey Rudenko “printed” out the authentic looking castle layer by layer using a machine he invented in his garage.
posted by 445supermag (22 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
This was really interesting. He says the plan next is to build a real house. Assuming he means a real move someone in house, how likely is this to be relatively easy to get up to code? It's concrete so very fire safe, I would think. I can't imagine this blowing away in a hurricane or even tornado. How earthquake safe would it be?

Given that the walls are hollow, I would think that would be a giant pain to drill through for various things that need to go in and out.

None of those questions take away from the fact that this is awesome. I wish I were a maker.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:02 PM on November 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


All that is needed is a way to mix ground trash into a liquid medium to harden after a known time at a known temp and many useful house type and utility structures like composters and such could be created. Custom seawalls too I bet, I'm lookin' at you Miami.
posted by Freedomboy at 10:04 PM on November 17, 2014


Minneapolis has a ton of people tinkering with 3D printing (maybe an outgrowth of Stratasys, a multibillion-dollar 3D printing company based here). There is a 3D printing meetup that Rudenko has attended a couple of times full of people who have made their own printers. I think Rudenko himself actually lives a couple of hours away in central MN, not really a Minneapolis "suburb."

This stuff is really taking off: I actually donated a Makerbot to our local high school science class (a grant covered most of the cost), and a woman I work with has been covering her entire office in 3D printed decorations that she prints at home.
posted by miyabo at 10:12 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Are we sure it's the first in the world?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 10:38 PM on November 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


And in Amsterdam (plastic houses).

All awesome - let the 3d printed house race begin!
posted by el io at 11:13 PM on November 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Are we sure it's the first in the world?

Yeah, the youtube links to the right are full of other videos of this 3D house printing underway and already a thing. Though I imagine everything is in the prototype stage at this point.
posted by zardoz at 11:20 PM on November 17, 2014


What is this going to do to the value of my traditionally-built house?
*he asked nervously*
posted by LarryC at 11:39 PM on November 17, 2014


Thomas Edison tried something like this. It didn't turn out so well.
posted by eye of newt at 12:50 AM on November 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Bill Bryson talks about Edison's concrete houses on his book "House," and they sounded like a disaster. Still...go Minnesota!!
posted by wenestvedt at 3:25 AM on November 18, 2014


Building contractors didn't exactly beat a path to his door. So in 1911, the inventor made another go of it. This time, he announced, he had discovered a product line for which concrete was ideally suited: home furnishings.
posted by flabdablet at 4:25 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Thomas Edison tried something like this. It didn't turn out so well.

I had no idea Edison was so well suited for the Whole Earth Catalog. He really was a man ahead of his time.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:23 AM on November 18, 2014


Reading the explanations on his site answered one question that I had right away: the printed walls aren't meant to be load-bearing--they're actually hollow forms with bits of rebar inserted during the printing process that will have structural concrete poured into them after the printed cement sets. That makes a lot more sense.

Also: Custom seawalls too I bet, I'm lookin' at you Miami. Seawalls won't help Miami:
South Florida has two big problems. The first is its remarkably flat topography. Half the area that surrounds Miami is less than five feet above sea level. Its highest natural elevation, a limestone ridge that runs from Palm Beach to just south of the city, averages a scant 12 feet. With just three feet of sea-level rise, more than a third of southern Florida will vanish; at six feet, more than half will be gone; if the seas rise 12 feet, South Florida will be little more than an isolated archipelago surrounded by abandoned buildings and crumbling overpasses. And the waters won't just come in from the east – because the region is so flat, rising seas will come in nearly as fast from the west too, through the Everglades.

Even worse, South Florida sits above a vast and porous limestone plateau. "Imagine Swiss cheese, and you'll have a pretty good idea what the rock under southern Florida looks like," says Glenn Landers, a senior engineer at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This means water moves around easily – it seeps into yards at high tide, bubbles up on golf courses, flows through underground caverns, corrodes building foundations from below. "Conventional sea walls and barriers are not effective here," says Robert Daoust, an ecologist at ARCADIS, a Dutch firm that specializes in engineering solutions to rising seas. "Protecting the city, if it is possible, will require innovative solutions."
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:24 AM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


It seems like this would be ideal for making decorative elements of a concrete or masonry house, but maybe not so much the structure of the house itself. Concrete generally relies on stone aggregate and steel reinforcing for strength, which doesn't seem like it'd work well with a 3D printer setup.

You're also limited by the fact that, without forms, you can only build relatively small structures before the uncured concrete deforms under its own weight.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 5:58 AM on November 18, 2014


I want to see someone do this with ice as the medium.
posted by ZeusHumms at 7:11 AM on November 18, 2014


Or Pykrete.
posted by 445supermag at 7:13 AM on November 18, 2014


ZeusHumms - Have you heard about the ice castle that will be in Eden Prairie? It looks like a similar idea.
posted by soelo at 9:05 AM on November 18, 2014


I think Rudenko himself actually lives a couple of hours away in central MN, not really a Minneapolis "suburb."

Shorewood, still in Hennepin County, and 30 minutes from downtown Minneapolis (and a mere 18 minutes from the nearest "Dale", Ridgedale Mall; the distance to Mondale is undetermined).
posted by dhartung at 1:17 PM on November 18, 2014


There is kinda a version of this in real life, called Insulated concrete forms (ICF, a brand name commonly used is Rastra Block). They are giant hollow blocks of Styrofoam with wire mesh inserted and you stack them like legos (they are big-like 2x4x2 or so) then fill the cavity with concrete, usually from a pump truck, somewhat similair to the type used for this extrusion process. A single person can lift one and stack them and if you aren't building more than about 1 story the need for rebar is minimal (such that a single person can easy put in the needed steel at the corners/windows/doors). they perform very well in earthquakes, are virtually soundproof and insulate really, really well. You can pair them with Structural insulated panels for a roof (without the need for trusses) for a complete structure that is easy and quick to build (as long as you keep the shape and roofline simple straight gables).

I would bet you can extrude something like Styrofoam (expanding foam?) from a 3d printer and use that as form. It seems the weight of the concrete would make the 3d printer very heavy and thus hard to move and expensive to make the printed walls actual human size, but the size for a foam sprayer shouldn't be too bad. You would probably still need some kind of support to spray on, maybe chicken wire or hog panels?
posted by bartonlong at 4:59 PM on November 18, 2014


Although I agree re: the neato factor, I still don't quite grok how this is an advance for practical construction. Beyond sculpting really exotic one-off art forms (of which a mini-castle is certainly a good example) there's nothing presented here IMHO than can't be done better, more quickly and probably at lesser expense with precast concrete and/or plastic components (I am leaving out wooden modular home construction, which is a huge industry, because of the decay factor and it's dependence on adequate quality control). How will the middleman cost of buying a modular kit and optionally paying for it's delivery/assembly compare to renting a 3D house printer, buying bulk material and optionally paying an operator crew?

Example: Nested buckyballs are very difficult to make until a 3-D printer is employed; then it's a couple clicks with a mouse... but a saw horse? Wouldn't you get a faster/stronger/cheaper result when you whack it together out of 2x4s with a circular saw and a screwgun?
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:30 PM on November 18, 2014


Concrete houses are already here in the form of ICFs. I used ICFs for part of my shop build and they are an awesome product. There is no reason one couldn't use this tech to mold the building, then adhere rigid foam to the outside and finally stucco for a durable finish. While placement of rebar would add manual complexity I wonder if it would be possible to use a wire rope instead of solid steel.

It seems the weight of the concrete would make the 3d printer very heavy and thus hard to move and expensive to make the printed walls actual human size, but the size for a foam sprayer shouldn't be too bad.

This is pretty well an already solved problem; your 3D concrete printer just needs a small hopper that can be fed with a concrete pump.

Beyond sculpting really exotic one-off art forms (of which a mini-castle is certainly a good example) there's nothing presented here IMHO than can't be done better, more quickly and probably at lesser expense with precast concrete and/or plastic components

Well this would allow for easy non rectilinear buildings. Something like a large water storage tank is kind of a hassle to form up and essentially impossible to precast without having a bunch of seams at panels.

Precast solutions are great for a small selection of standard items but the cost of forms makes marketing non mass quantities of a product uneconomic.

And if fully realized this could make concrete domes much more realistic. A perfect solution for occasional occupation buildings like beach houses or ski/hunting cabins.
posted by Mitheral at 7:05 PM on November 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Prestressed concrete tanks already are sort of 3D printed. The structure is erected, an automated sprayer lays down a layer of shotcrete, a layer of pretensioning wire is wrapped around the structure, then another layer of shotcrete.

A lot of tanks are basically precast, but they're cast on site horizontally, then erected with a crane, rather than cast elsewhere and shipped in.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 9:15 AM on November 20, 2014


Here's (pdf link) a better overview of prestressed tank construction.
posted by Ham Snadwich at 9:16 AM on November 20, 2014


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