3D Printed House

Man to 3D Print His Own Home in His Own Home

By May 14, 2014. 3D Printing, 3DP Applications, Featured, Videos

Move over China, Behrokh Khoshnevis, and the Canal House, here’s a fella who’s 3D printing a building in his own garage! Though there’s been recent news of a Chinese company 3D printing homes in 24 hours, Dr. Khoshnevis at USC has been promising 3D concrete printing for at least a few years, and a Dutch design firm is slowly 3D printing a plastic building in Amsterdam, Andrey Rudenko is in the process of testing his own 3D construction process from the confines of his Minnesotan home.

3D printed house computer set up

Rudenko, a contractor with a background in architecture and engineering, is currently at the experimentation stage of his project. He’s spent the last year building a 3D concrete printer in his two-car garage, gradually scaling up his project to the point where he can print a two-story home. The architect says that this has been a long time in the making, “My concrete printing experience dates back to about 20 years ago, but at that point, advanced computers and software were not available for the type of technology I was looking to build. Thus, it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I came across the RepRap project and started working on this machine again. It took about a year to build as well as develop the special concrete mixes.

3D printed house concrete extrusion

Rudenko has been able to construct his giant RepRap with input and feedback from the RepRap community, but the funding and actual construction work has all been his own. The enormous 3D printer is driven by the same Arduino Mega 2560 board and software as some other 3D printer kits, but with larger motors, purchased from the Mass Mind. It’s capable of extruding layers that are 20mm wide and 5mm tall. The contractor uses a concrete and sand mixture that, while it doesn’t dry instantaneously, solidifies sufficiently for the printing process to work, without necessitating the trowel and specially designed, quick-drying concrete that Khoshnevis’s Contour Crafting group uses at USC.

Rudenko seems to be pretty familiar with the work of the USC professor, intentionally differentiating himself:

I’m going in a slightly different direction than Behrokh Khoshnevis. I’m building a portable machine that could be used by regular contractors, which I currently see as being priced at about the cost of a car. Behrokh Khoshnevis’s printer is heavier and most likely priced much higher, which is why it looks like a good fit for large-scale companies, while mine will be well-suited for regular constructors/construction.

Differently than Behrokh Khoshnevis’s method, I’m creating a natural, free-layering of fine concrete. My goal is to have a nice-looking, natural texture, without a need for any additional finish. 25mm (1 inch) width x 10mm height is my standard dimension, which makes for easy calculations. But within reason, I am able to pretty much print layers of any dimension.

To keep the cost of materials low, I’m using a regular cement mix with additives. It is possible to use special quick-setting concrete to speed up the process, but it will affect the cost, and I don’t see much reason to build a house extremely fast at the expense of higher cost and lower quality.

Despite occasional issues with the viscosity of the material, Rudenko has made fairly significant progress in his work fabricating partial, reinforced walls. The wall in the video below is being printed in winter, with ambient temperatures slightly above 0°C (or 32°F), with Rudenko saying that it can withstand real world conditions.

The eventual plan is to 3D print a two-story home 10m x 15m in size and, unlike the recent homes printed in China, Rudenko will include plumbing, electricity and insulation in the construction process. His main concern, however, is “finding a lot for the experimental printing of larger structures like the two-story house” in Minnesota. He may even include some of his experiments as decorative elements in the final 3D printed structure. Until he begins construction on the house this summer, Rudenko will gradually expand the size of his experiments.

sketch for 3D printed playhouse

At the moment, he’s in the process of printing a playhouse to test the material and structural properties of his printing process. He says, “I’ve done a lot of experimenting on small structures; now I’m printing medium-sized structures, including the 3 x 5m castle. I’m choosing to print a castle form because it allows me to include a variety of different shapes and elements, including arches, etc, in addition to the fact that a medium-sized structure is the only size I can legally print in my backyard…The castle will take about a week for the setup, printing, and making of the video.”

3D printed arches

The interior arches of Rudenko’s 3D printed playhouse.

Rudenko adds that, “I’m also thinking of inviting architectural/engineering students to attend the printing sessions. I’m creating an international community of people involved with this work who could interact, discuss, and share concepts to further this technology.

beginnings of 3D printed playhouse

The initial stages of Rudenko’s 3D printed playhouse.

The reasons for pursuing this epic endeavour aren’t merely for fun or media attention, which appear to be happy side effects, but to improve the field of construction and produce eco-friendly homes. Ideally, 3D home printers would prevent construction workers from being exposed to dangerous workplace hazards, like dust. Also unlike Khoshnevis’s, plans, building components like steel reinforcement will be installed manually, rather than robotically, making the process much more feasible. He explains, “For the sake of allowing people in construction to keep their jobs, yes, I wanted part of the work to be manual for the time-being. This also helps to not overburden the printer at the expense of efficiency. During the process of printing, I’m leaving channels to fish electrical wires and plumbing pipes through, and special channels for heating and air conditioning. Insulation is a major point of this project, and I will explain it in more detail on my website.” If made commonplace, 3D construction could reduce the amount of labour necessary to fabricate buildings, with Rudenko believing that only a computer operator, to run the printer, and a materials operator, to manage the cement and place reinforcement rods throughout the structure, would be required. And, as you might guess, 3D construction also greatly opens up architectural design opportunities.

3D printed house steel reinforcement

Rudenko manually adding steel reinforcement to his structure.

After completing the two-story house, Rudenko hopes to build an energy efficient home that uses computer software to significantly limit the need for heating and air-conditioning, saying, “I plan to print a contemporarily-designed energy-saving house heavily relying on thermal mass energy storage principles, which will considerably reduce the continuous need for heating and air conditioning. I have developed a concept that incorporates forgotten energy-saving technologies controlled through a computer.

The inventor is also in the process of upgrading his equipment to be able to 3D print on hills and in mountainous areas, where other forms of construction are more difficult. He says that this next generation of printer “is built on entirely new principles, and will hopefully lead to the development of new architectural designs/ideas.” Not only that, but he’s been experimenting with powering his concrete printer with solar panels and car batteries, meaning that the house printing process can be done off the grid. Rudenko says, “Soon I will be able to print a house in the middle of the wilderness without electricity sources, needing just cement + water + sand + good sunny weather.” The implications for remote communities could be profound.

Rudenko may eventually sell his construction machinery, but first he needs to prove that it will work. At this point, though, he’s confident that it will, concluding, “I’ve achieved good results, and I am moving forward with the 3D House Printer.

  • RichRap

    This is really impressive, cement printing is a very difficult thing to actually do, Great Job.

    • Mike Molitch-Hou

      Have you tried, Rich?

      • RichRap

        Yes, for some time, getting better results. It’s why I designed my 3DRmega printer that can have an open base so you can print cement sculptures directly onto concrete paving slabs then lift off the printer. I’ll post more about using pumped paste materials soon.

        • Mike Molitch-Hou

          Wowzers, Rich! That’s awesome! And the print to the right of the machine looks super realistic!

  • EricHunting

    I’m very impressed with this. It’s really amazing how neat and clean this printing is working with conventional cement material. I would have expected that to be much more difficult. And for a home-made prototype, this is printing remarkably uniformly. This is a great project and Rudenko demonstrates superior skills with this. I’m curious as to what the machine in the custom roadcase beside the laptop is. Could that be the printer controller?

    It’s interesting to see how this house printing concept is catalyzing so much interest–and how it all seems to be emerging from different parts of the world at almost the same time. It looks like large format 3D printers and architectural printing are going to be in the news a lot this year.

  • Raemoe Co., Ltd

    This new technology and development, and all new ideas people have is great. But, when I read these articles I think that all the hype around 3D printing is a bit of overkill (do not doubt; I’m all fully involved in 3D printing as an entrepreneur in business!).

    My point is that today any welding robot, automatic pouring machine or other device which extrudes any material from the nozzle or tube, and moves the nozzle itself using any kind of a computerized system, is called a 3D printer. These machines in many variations have been there more or less decades, why they were not called as 3D printer some 30 years ago, in other contexts, on steel works, factories or construction sites?

    So, man in this article; is he really 3D printing house, or is he “just” casting it of suitable mix of concrete, using an automated casting machine? I can’t say where to set “limits”, is it 3D printing if molds not used. In welding they never used…
    Sure it’s most fashionable to print house these days.

    • Mike Molitch-Hou

      The hype is pretty big (though I think it’s starting to deflate a little bit). When reporting on these stories, we usually try to point out when something is too hyped, while informing those interested in the technology. That is, unless we’ve been taken in by the hype too! We also try to regularly describe the blurry boundaries of 3D printing. Here’s one instance where I talk a little about it: http://3dprintingindustry.com/2013/08/26/is-it-3d-printing-mit-researchers-construct-building-blocks/

      My personal opinion about reporting on topics that may only loosely be considered 3D printing is that we should acknowledge them as loose 3D printing or not 3D printing, but that we should still report on them, as it may inform others in the industry about the possibilities of their own craft.

    • The Man

      Raemoe, I think you’re off base here and letting your Buzz filter overwhelm the facts. He is extruding a house. That’s groundbreaking stuff. Extruding is many times faster than any other concrete construction method. The ability to extrude based on CAD data is a huge plus and will enable advances in architecture and HVAC efficiency.

  • Kellel

    Is there a company that we can buy them from?

  • Electra

    how much would a 3D printer of that size be as I am starting to think I will never be able to afford a house of my own with cost of living prices going up