3D printing technology is starting to gain a lot of attention as a promising solution for house construction. This innovative technology has many benefits, such as allowing for the creation of complex and customized designs with less material waste, and faster construction times than with traditional methods. As a result, the market for 3D printers designed specifically for house construction has grown rapidly in recent years.
In this article, we will review the best 3D printers for house construction, taking into account factors such as cost, build volume, and pros and cons. We’ll also discuss some of the pros and cons of 3D printers in the housing industry in general, and answer some frequently asked questions. Let’s first consider the 13 best 3D printers for house construction:
1. Total Kustom StroyBot 6.2
Total is a US-based company that specializes in 3D printers for construction. Their Kustom StroyBot 6.2 is a gantry-system 3D printer with a maximum build size of 10 x 20 x 6 meters (LxWxH). The StroyBot 6.2 starts at $300,000 and can cost up to $950,000 depending on the model and build envelope required. The 250 mm/s maximum print speed is in the middle of the pack for gantry-based 3D printers.
The price tag of this printer is quite competitive for a gantry-based construction 3D printer. It includes everything you need to get started, including the automated mixing station and pumping system, as well as a week of free training. The printer does not require a proprietary concrete mix, allowing you to save money on materials.
2. WASP Crane WASP
The Crane WASP 3D printer is made by WASP in Italy. It is a frame-mounted robotic arm 3D printer with a unique modular approach to printing over large areas. A single printer is capable of printing within a circular area with a maximum diameter of 6.3 meters and can print up to a maximum height of 3 meters. However, the additional printers can be used to extend the maximum print area and height.
This modular system means that a potentially infinite print area can be reached and printed simultaneously. A disadvantage of the Crane WASP is that you either need to buy multiple printers to increase the print size, or you need to reconfigure the printers that you do have periodically to eventually cover the required print area. The print size for a single Crane WASP printer is very small compared to that of the other printers on this list. In addition to printing concrete, WASP’s 3D printer is also able to print earth materials. Crane WASP 3D printing systems start at €132,000 ($14,549).
3. COBOD BOD2
The BOD2 is a gantry-style 3D printer for construction made by COBOD in Denmark. It is capable of a maximum build size of 50.5 x 14.6 x 8.1 meters (LxWxH). It has a maximum print speed of 1000 m/s, making it the fastest construction 3D printer on the market.
The BOD2 boasts an extremely fast print speed and can be used with a variety of materials. The printer size can be configured according to the size of the project thanks to the modular design of the support trusses used by the printer. The printer can also compensate for uneven surfaces, making it suitable for a wider range of construction applications.
4. Maxi Printer
Constructions-3D is a French manufacturer of 3D mortar printers. Their Maxi Printer is a robotic-arm 3D printer for construction that retails for €495,000 ($545,613) and up, depending on the options you select. This printer has a maximum build size of 12.2 x 12.2 x 7 meters, with a maximum printing speed of 300 mm/s.
The Maxi Printer is focused on ease of use. It requires only two people to run and can be deployed within two hours. When buying this printer, you get a turnkey solution with all the equipment you need to start printing, all in a 20-foot container that’s ready to be shipped to the construction site. It suffers from the same disadvantages as other robotic-arm printers, such as a limited print area and the need for specialized software to operate them.
5. BetAbram™ P1
Since 2012, BetAbram, a Slovenian team, has been dedicated to advancing construction 3D printing technology. Their flagship product, the BetAbram P1, is now in its second version. It is equipped with different printhead options, including a basic printhead, and a rotating head, to offer a wider range of design possibilities. It also has an “orto” option for smoother layers. BetAbram’s P1 3D printer is a gantry-style printer capable of building sizes up to 16 x 8.2 x 2.5 meters. The price for this printer is available upon request from the manufacturer.
XtreeE is a French company that produces 3D printing systems. They are unique in the sense that they manufacture the printing heads to be used on robotic arms. Their printers can be used on a wide range of robotic arms from various suppliers, and can also print a wide variety of materials. The maximum build size depends on the robotic arm that the print head is mounted on. The price of one of their printing systems is available from the manufacturer upon request.
7. CyBe Construction CyBe RC 3Dp
The CyBe RC (Robot Crawler) 3D printer is a mobile robotic-arm 3D printer manufactured by CyBe Construction in the Netherlands. Its maximum build size is a circumference of 5 meters, with a maximum height of 4.5 meters. However, its print speed of 500 mm/s makes it one of the fastest construction 3D printers on the market. These printers start at $205,000, which is a highly competitive price. Unfortunately, the build size is a bit smaller than for other printers on this list.
8. ICON Vulcan™ III
The ICON Vulcan III is a gantry-style 3D printer. It is made by ICON in the United States, and reports a build volume of 3.2 x 11.58 x 30.48 meters. This model prints an area 1.5 times larger than their previous model, at twice the speed. The Vulcan III printer can construct homes and structures with an area of up to 279 square meters without repositioning the gantry.
The Vulcan construction system integrates hardware, materials, and software to build both residential and large-scale structures. It consists of two main components: the Vulcan printer and the Magma portable mixing unit. The Magma unit prepares ICON's special building material, Lavacrete, for printing, while the Vulcan printer is responsible for the actual printing process. These components are powered by the BuildOS software suite, which generates and prepares the digital plans for printing and controls the robotic hardware on site. With this comprehensive system, ICON can transform digital designs into physical homes and other structures.
Their 3D printing material, Lavacrete, is composed of a blend of Portland cement, fillers, supplementary cementitious materials, and advanced additives. The mixture was designed to be highly printable and to create strong structures. Magma takes in the dry Lavacrete, hydrates it, and then adapts the formula in real-time, depending on the conditions at the building site. When the material is ready, Magma transfers it to the Vulcan printer for 3D printing. The price of the Vulcan III is available from the manufacturer upon request.
9. MudBots™ 3D Concrete Printers
MudBots is a US-based company that produces a variety of gantry-style 3D printers. The maximum build size that can be achieved by their printers is 21.9 x 21.9 x 14.5 meters. Their printers start at $35,000, but this price can vary by a lot based on the model.
10. Apis Cor™
Apis Cor is a 3D printing construction company in the United States. It is a leading company in the 3D construction industry. Their 3D printer, nicknamed “Frank,” is a robotic arm-style printer with a maximum build size of 8.5 x 1.6 x 1.5 meters. It can reportedly construct an entire house in less than 24 hours. This build size is for a stationary printer but the total footprint can be even bigger since the printer can be moved around. This printer was used to build the largest 3D-printed building in the world, in Dubai. Apis Cor's printer has earned recognition for its capabilities, winning first place in NASA's Phase 3 3D-Printed Habitat Competition in 2019. The company developed its proprietary building material for 3D-printed houses that comprises a mix of geopolymers, sand, cement, and fibers.
Apis Cor’s “Frank” 3D printer is available for purchase worldwide, with prices available from the manufacturer.
11. SQ4D™ – ARCS™
SQ4D is a manufacturer based in the United States. Their SQ4D ARCS 3D printer is a gantry-based printer capable of printing sizes up to 9.1(W) x 4.4(H) meters with a potentially infinite length. The company makes use of a simplified blend of typical concrete materials for construction printing. This is an advantage because it can easily be understood by building departments, builders, and approval bodies, unlike some custom building mixes that other companies use. Their building materials are also locally sourced, sustainable, and abundant.
The SQ4D 3D printer boasts low power consumption, comparable to that of a standard hair dryer. They make use of a patent-pending custom nozzle that is designed to increase the precision and stackability of the printer. This means that the printer can easily stack a few layers on top of each. It is also designed to reduce waste and print with a cleaner path. The price of the ARCS printer is available upon request from the manufacturer.
What Are the Advantages of 3D Printers for Constructing Houses?
The construction industry can benefit from using 3D printing technology to print houses. Some of the benefits include:
- Innovation and Flexible Design: 3D printing technology enables the creation of intricate and unique shapes and designs that are not possible with traditional manufacturing methods. Architects can use new software to design and print innovative houses tailored to their client’s needs. The flexibility of this technology allows for easy modifications to designs, which reduces the cost and labor required.
- Rapid Production: 3D printing technology can produce parts and structures within 24 hours, reducing costs compared to traditional manufacturing methods. Because houses can be 3D printed so fast, builders have the scheduling flexibility to avoid working at night or in bad weather.
- Waste Reduction: 3D printing technology minimizes the amount of material waste on construction sites by using only the required amount of material for each part.
What Are the Disadvantages of 3D Printers for Constructing Houses?
Although 3D printing has many advantages in the construction of houses, there are also some disadvantages to consider, such as:
- High Initial Costs: The cost of purchasing or renting a 3D printer can be very expensive. Additionally, transporting large 3D printers to work sites can be challenging. Ongoing expenses for materials and maintenance must also be considered, which may make it difficult for some construction professionals to justify the investment in 3D printing technology.
- Regulatory Challenges: The regulatory framework for 3D printing in construction is currently unclear. Integrating 3D printing technology into traditional construction project management processes will also be a challenge. Building codes may need to be updated to permit the use of this technology. Establishing a consistent 3D printing construction building code across municipalities will be an essential hurdle to overcome.
- Quality Control: Although 3D printing can create complex structures and customized designs, ensuring the final product's quality can be a challenge. The automated process relies entirely on the printer's accuracy and precision, and the quality of raw materials used can also impact the final product's quality.
- Labor Shortage: There is already a shortage of skilled workers in the construction industry, and 3D printing demands an even more specialized set of skills. Finding qualified workers for 3D printing in construction may be a significant challenge.
What Is 3D House Printing for Construction?
3D house printing for construction, or construction 3D printing (C3DP), refers to the process of using a 3D printer to manufacture building components or even entire structures. The C3DP process typically starts with the creation of a 3D digital model of the desired structure. The model is then sliced into horizontal layers, and a robot or gantry system follows a predetermined path to deposit each layer of material on top of the previous one until the final structure is completed. Materials such as concrete, metal, or polymers are then printed layer by layer to form the 3D structure. This process can be used to create whole 3D-printed houses or to build the individual components of a house, such as walls, floors, and roofs. For more information, see our guide on 3D Printing vs. Traditional Manufacturing.
Why Is Demand for 3D-Printed House Construction Rising Fast?
There are several reasons why the demand for 3D-printed concrete houses is rising. Some of these reasons are listed below:
- Faster Construction Time: 3D printing allows for faster construction times than the traditional building process since so much of the process is automated. It can be completed in a fraction of the time spent erecting a house by traditional construction methods.
- Lower Labor Costs: With the use of 3D printers, there is less need for manual labor, therefore reducing labor costs.
- Less Material Waste: Traditional construction methods often generate significant material waste. However, 3D printing allows for the precise application of materials, reducing the amount of waste generated during the construction process.
- Increased Customization: With 3D printing, it is possible to customize building designs in ways that were not possible with traditional construction methods. This allows for greater flexibility and creativity in building design.
What Are the Types of 3D Printers for Construction?
There are two types of 3D printers used to print houses, namely:
- Gantry Systems: Gantry systems consist of a large stationary frame that moves along two or three axes, while the print head moves along a single axis. The gantry is usually built on-site and is a permanent fixture during the construction process. This type of system is commonly used for larger-scale 3D printing projects since it allows for the creation of complex shapes with precision and accuracy. Gantry systems are typically more stable than robotic arm extruders, allowing for faster printing speeds and the use of larger print heads.
- Robotic Arm Extruders: Robotic arm extruders are more mobile and versatile than gantry systems. 3D printer robotic arms are usually pre-manufactured and brought to the construction site. They can move along six axes, allowing for more flexibility in the printing process. They are typically used for smaller-scale 3D printing projects or for printing on irregular surfaces that require a more flexible approach. However, robotic arm extruders can be less stable than gantry systems and may require more time for calibration and adjustments.
How Long Can a 3D-Printed House Last?
The longevity of a 3D-printed house depends on what materials and techniques are used to print it. Forward-looking companies that are incorporating 3D-printed houses into their business models have access to a range of materials beyond simple concrete mixtures. Some companies use geopolymers or other material mixtures that are concrete-like, but are not classified as concrete. Compared to concrete block and precast panel construction 3D-printed houses are expected to have a much longer lifespan — minimum of 100 years. Assuming there is no separation between the 3D printed layers and appropriate hydration is maintained during the construction process, 3D printed houses have the potential to last over 300 years. This is due to the material's strength and density and the geometry's ability to handle stress.
Is 3D Printing Technology Limited Only to House Construction?
No, 3D printing technology is not limited only to house construction. 3D printing can also be used to create other structures, such as bridges and commercial buildings, and offices. The world's first 3D-printed skyscraper, which will be featured in Dubai, is underway.
Is 3D Printing Technology Able to Provide Safe Structures?
Yes, 3D printers can print both safe and reliable structures. However, the safety of a 3D-printed structure will depend on the quality of the materials used and the construction process, just as it would for any traditionally constructed building. 3D printers do, however, allow for greater precision in construction, which could result in more accurate and reliable structures.
Is 3D Printing for Construction a Slow Process?
It depends. The speed at which houses can be printed is influenced by various factors, such as the complexity and size of the structure, the type and size of the 3D printer utilized, and the material used for printing.
3D printing houses are typically faster than traditional construction methods due to the automated, precise nature of the process. 3D printing can also eliminate the need for time-consuming assembly of individual components since the printing of walls and other features can be done in a continuous operation. Moreover, 3D printing generates minimal waste, reducing the time required for cleanup after a building has been constructed.However, printing larger structures can still be a time-consuming process, and the speed may be influenced by factors such as the need to pause printing to allow the printed material to cure.
Does a 3D-Printed House Cost More Than a Traditionally Constructed House?
No. The World Economic Forum has reported that 3D printing of houses provides a cost-effective and efficient alternative to traditional construction methods, with savings of up to 45%, by eliminating the need for expensive materials and labor. 3D-printed houses require less material and labor and are made with locally sourced materials. This leads to reduced costs and assembly time. Although additional workers (e.g. plumbers and electricians) may be required to complete the building, 3D printing streamlines the integration of other trades into the building process, making the construction of features such as plumbing, windows, and electrical outlets easier. This is because 3D printers print the pass-throughs for plumbing and electrical, and print the window frame openings. The process of 3D printing is also faster and more automated, reducing the risk of human error, leading to increased productivity, and allowing projects to be completed quickly and with minimal disruption.
This article presented the best 3D printers for house construction, explained each one, and discussed how each can be used. To learn more about 3D printers for construction, contact a Xometry representative.
Xometry provides a wide range of manufacturing capabilities, including 3D printing and other value-added services for all of your prototyping and production needs. Visit our website to learn more or to request a free, no-obligation quote.
Copyright Trademark Notices
- BetAbram™ is a registered trademark owned by Interelab D.O.O.
- XTreeE is a registered trademark owned by XTreeE
- Vulcan is a trademark owned by Icon Technology, Inc.
- Mudbots is a registered trademark owned by CJR Distributing
- Apis Cor is a registered trademark owned by APIS COR, Inc.
- SQ4D and ARCS are trademarks owned by SQ4D Patent LLC
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