Our company gets calls every week from people and companies that are interested in knowing more about the new industry of 3D Concrete Printing. People are intrigued by the possibilities, but the industry is so new. They have lots of questions and the more questions that are answered, the newer ones they discover.
The truth is that concrete printing is going to revolutionize construction in a way that we haven’t seen since the invention of the tractor. Our parent company is a robotics manufacturer so we understand as well as most the changes before us. Automation is coming and those who embrace it will discover distinct advantages over their competition. These are the pioneers that are on the forefront of technology and their companies will lead the day moving forward.
From printing fountains and statues to decorative fencing, monuments, and of course, homes and warehouses. This is a new industry, but it will evolve very quickly in numerous directions.
As the world is slowly learning about a 3D Printed Castle, and similar videos are beginning to go viral, entrepreneurs all over the world are both fascinated and enamored with thoughts of potential possibilities. There is no doubt that this technology will change construction forever, but as thousands of curious prospects begin to come in, it’s becoming obvious that the cost to educate the public is going to be extensive. Everyone has so many questions, but no one is really talking.
At first glance, the idea of printing concrete seems easy. After all, everyone has seen a 3D printer or CNC router tables, so where is the real mystery? As hundreds are anxious to simulate what they’ve seen on YouTube, they do so with a very naive approach.
The idea of moving concrete with a computer controller isn’t hard at all. Anyone with a CNC router table can rig up a funnel and some sprinkler pipe to simulate most of the videos we’re beginning to see. And 90% quickly discover that the real mystery is in controlling and finishing the mud. Most of the people we speak to are fascinated by the idea, but nearly everyone hates the layer by layer look of the finished product. Even still, the idea of plastering the finished product is a viable solution, but the preference would be the ability to finish as you go and eliminate even more expense in an unnecessary step.
So while many CNC companies are just getting around to pouring their first bucket of mud through a funnel connected to a CNC table, and discovering the challenges of working with a material that changes every minute, the real players are already working to engineer a way to provide a finish that doesn’t require a crew of plasterers to come behind and make the finished product look good.
So even if you have a thousand hours to waste on figuring out the formula for mixing the right mud that will support itself without turning into a flat mess or falling over when trying to cantilever the third and fourth pass, the next step requires a team of engineers to design a troweling feature that can follow the printed path and rotate with every turn. This is where others generally lose interest because it requires a competent group of software and mechanical engineers that understand the dynamics of 5-axis robotics as well as the structural characteristics of building with mortar.
The Germans lead the pack right now, but they aren’t interested in selling what they have built. Their business model is to provide service rather than sell their printing machine. Several Chinese companies are trying to cash in, but to date, they haven’t shown anything more than pushing some mortar out of a 2-axis CNC table. All they have accomplished is linear printing rather than 3D printing as evidenced by their videos. The group that started most of this with the 3D printed castle is ahead of most, but still have no solution for the undesirable finish that everyone’s concerned about.
Those that are a year or two into this know enough to recognize the challenge of managing a mechanical device that can rotate every corner and move in a manner that does not knock down the work that’s been done in an attempt to trowel as-you-go. It is the real task.
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