The House That 3D Printing Built
Jeffrey Heimgartner posted on March 24, 2017 |
Apis Cor company finishes printing a concrete residence near Moscow.
The first building 3D-printed by Apis Cor. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)
The first building 3D-printed by Apis Cor. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)

A lot of folks don’t know that 3D printing has been around for more than 30 years now. Even though the process has come a long way since Charles Hull introduced his stereolithography (SLA) 3D printer back in 1983, the technology continues to advance, evolve, become more affordable and find its way into new niches. Advancements in 3D printing hardware, software, materials and methods have allowed 3D printing to become prevalent in industries that were probably never even dreamed of back in 3D printing’s infancy. 3D printing technology became a major game changer early on in prototyping, and then started to make its way into industries like manufacturing, automotive and electronics. Then 3D printing started to become relevant in unexpected areas such as toys, food, health and fashion, and even now is making its way into the residential construction industry. Enter the company Apis Cor.

The Apis Cor 3D printing platform. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)
The Apis Cor 3D printing platform. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)

Apis Cor announced late last year that it had finished its first 3D-printed house near Moscow. If a fully functional 3D-printed house isn’t amazing enough, the entire main structure was printed in 24 hours. Now, in all fairness other companies with similar intent, 3D printing and the advantages it provides to the construction industry have been around for a while; however, most 3D-printed construction projects to date have been completed off-site in sections that had to be transported to the construction site and assembled. Apis Cor is one of the first companies to develop a mobile construction 3D printer that is capable of printing whole buildings completely on-site.

The Apis Cor mobile construction 3D printer utilizes an automatic mix and supply unit that helps to automate the entire system, which almost eliminates the human factor involved in the process. The entire compact system can be transported to the building site and set up in less than an hour. The technology also allows for different methods of printing walls to achieve the desired thermal insulation. The project referenced in this article included both dry insulating material and a polyurethane filler composition.

The Apis Cor construction setup. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)
The Apis Cor construction setup. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)

The inside of Apis Cor’s 3D-printed house is really no different than any typical concrete house. It includes a living room, main hallway, bathroom and a compact but fully functional kitchen. Since the structure can be printed in a way that fixtures such as windows and doors don’t need additional support components, they can fill the entire opening void, which helps to eliminate cold spots and drafts.

Apis Cor approached its 3D-printed construction project from all sides and invited five world-renowned companies known for their innovative approach as partners: PIK Companies Group, Samsung Electronics, TechnoNICOL Corporation, Bitex Reibeputz and Fabrika Okon. The total cost to construct the 410-square-foot structure was $10,134 or just under $25 per square foot. That cost included the foundation, roof, interior and exterior walls, wall insulation, windows, floors and suspended ceiling. The cost is skewed somewhat by the fact that for this first test project, the partners provided the highest quality materials and the building itself has a very unconventional shape. As Apis Cor continues to develop the technique and improve upon the cost per square foot, its product could have enormous benefits for providing affordable housing and allowing for faster recovery after natural disasters.

The term “3D printing” gives way to “additive manufacturing” for industrial use. It differs from standard manufacturing processes of starting with your raw materials and then removing from them in the form of cutting, drilling, machining, and so on—all of which leave you with material waste. Additive manufacturing means that you start with nothing and only add what you need. This is true in the construction industry as well. It seems like both a financially responsible and environmentally friendly goal to have a process that would help to eliminate additional resources and the potential for a pile of construction waste at the end of your project.

Apis Cor suggests that additive construction may reduce labor and waste. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)
Apis Cor suggests that additive construction may reduce labor and waste. (Image courtesy of Apis Cor.)
You can find more information about Apis Cor’s 3D-printed house project at the Apis Cor website.

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