3D printing has captivated imaginations worldwide with its ability to transform digital models into physical objects. Now, this revolutionary technology is beginning to disrupt home building and construction. Specialized 3D printers can fabricate structural components, walls, and even entire houses layer-by-layer from concrete and other materials. As the prospects grow for streamlining and reinventing construction through 3D printing, the market for these build-scale printers continues to expand rapidly.
In this article, we dive into the world of 3D printers designed specifically for home and building construction. We will review the leading printers in this emerging industry, analyze their capabilities and price points, and discuss the pros and cons of constructing homes using this digital fabrication technique. Let’s explore the printers paving the way for automated, on-demand construction of future dwellings and commercial buildings.
Table of Contents
- Overview of 3D Concrete Printers For Building Homes
- Quick comparison
- Total Kustom StroyBot 6.2
- WASP Crane WASP
- COBOD BOD2
- Maxi Printer
- BetAbramTM P1
- XtreeETM Printing Systems
- CyBe Construction CyBe RC 3Dp
- ICON VulcanTM III
- MudBotsTM 3D Concrete Printers
- Apis CorTM “Frank” Printer
- Advantages of 3D Concrete Printers
- Limitations and Challenges
- Future Opportunities and Outlook
- Real-World Printed Housing Projects
Overview of 3D Concrete Printers For Building Homes
Also referred to as additive manufacturing or freeform fabrication, 3D printing constructs objects by depositing successive layers of material under precise digital control until the object is complete. 3D printing streamlines design, prototyping, production, and construction across industries through this automated, additive approach.
For constructing homes and buildings, 3D printers deposit and solidify liquid concrete and other materials in layers using an extrusion or injection system. Printers follow a digital model of the dwelling’s 3D geometry. Most utilize a gantry system with the print head moving over a stationary print bed. Others use robotic arms or a combination of movements. Rebar and other components can be inserted manually after major elements are printed.
Compared to conventional stick framing or masonry techniques, 3D printing automates much of the construction process while enabling customized designs. Proponents tout benefits in speed, cost savings, sustainability, and architectural creativity. But effectively scaling 3D printing for mainstream home building also poses challenges. As the technology progresses, we will delve into the Printers Leading the Pack
|Company / Model||Origin||Design||Build Volume (L x W x H)||Max Speed (mm/s)||Price Range (USD)||Unique Features|
|Total Kustom StroyBot 6.2||USA||Gantry||10 x 20 x 6 m||250||$300,000 – $950,000||Integrated mixing and pumping systems|
|WASP Crane WASP||Italy||Robotic Arm||6.3m diameter x 3m height||N/A||Starting at $145,000||Modular flexibility|
|COBOD BOD2||Denmark||Gantry||50 x 15 x 8 m||1000||Starting at $420,000||Fastest construction 3D printer|
|MaxiPrinter||France||Robotic Arm||12 x 12 x 7 m||300||Starting at €495,000||Comes in a shipping container|
|BetAbram P1||Slovenia||Gantry||16m length||N/A||Undisclosed||Dual print heads|
|XtreeE||France||Hybrid||Custom||N/A||Custom||Compatible with existing robotic arms|
|CyBe RC 3Dp||Netherlands||Robotic Arm||5m diameter x 4.5m height||500||Starting at $205,000||Mobile and transportable|
|ICON Vulcan III||USA||Gantry||12 x 3 x 8 m||N/A||Undisclosed||Integrated software and materials|
|MudBots||USA||Gantry||Up to 22 x 15 m||N/A||$35,000 – $60,000||Simplified materials and software|
|Apis Cor “Frank”||Russia||Robotic Arm||< 200 sq.m in 24 hrs||N/A||Undisclosed||Specialized concrete materials|
|SQ4D ARC||France||N/A||N/A||N/A||Undisclosed||Uses locally sourced materials and patented nozzle technology|
Now let’s profile the top construction 3D printers driving innovations in printed dwellings and structures:
Total Kustom StroyBot 6.2
Total Kuston (http://www.totalkustom.com)
Total Kustom is an American company specializing in large-format 3D printers for construction. Their StroyBot 6.2 features a gantry system capable of prints up to 10 x 20 x 6 meters (length x width x height). Starting around $300,000 and ranging up to $950,000 depending on build volume, it prints at moderately fast speeds up to 250 mm/s.
The StroyBot 6.2 is cost-competitive for a gantry construction printer. It includes integrated mixing and pumping systems and Initial training. Using standard concrete mixes provides materials cost savings. But the size may be limiting for major projects.
WASP Crane WASP
Italian company WASP takes a unique approach with their Crane WASP printer line. Using robotic arms mounted to frames, Crane WASPs can network together for very large print areas. A single arm has a modest build envelope of 6.3 meter diameter by 3 meter height. But multiple WASPs can orchestrate printing across a virtually limitless area. At €132,000 ($145,000) and up, the modular flexibility comes at a premium.
COBOD, based in Denmark, produces the BOD2, a leading gantry printer for construction. It boasts an impressive 50 meter length by nearly 15 meter width by over 8 meter height build area. And remarkably, it prints at blistering speeds up to 1000 mm/s, making it the fastest construction 3D printer available. Starting around €385,000 ($420,000), it’s on the more affordable end for an industrial-scale printer.
French company Constructions-3D offers the robotic arm-based Maxi Printer tailored for easy site deployment. With a build volume of 12 x 12 x 7 meters and 300 mm/s max speed, the €495,000+ printer comes in a shipping container for plug-and-play setup requiring minimal crew. While size and software usability are limiting factors, the convenience and support may suit new adopters.
Slovenian startup BetAbram’s P1 printer features a gantry design with a 16 meter length print capability. Dual print heads allow basic extrusion or precise rotating modes for enhanced finishes and architectural details. BetAbram is keeping pricing under wraps for now but touts an affordable solution for contractors seeking construction printing.
XtreeETM Printing Systems
French firm XtreeE takes a flexible approach by producing print heads compatible with various industry robotic arms already on the market. This allows creating customized systems sized for particular projects. Consequently, pricing is only available on request. While leveraging existing robotic platforms helps limit costs, it may also constrain performance.
CyBe Construction CyBe RC 3Dp
Another robotic arm option, the RC 3Dp from Netherlands-based CyBe Construction starts at $205,000. The mobile unit has a 5 meter diameter, 4.5 meter height workspace envelope. And impressively, it prints at rapid 500 mm/s speeds. But again, modest size could restrict broad applicability. Still, competitive pricing and transportability may appeal to smaller contractors.
ICON VulcanTM III
One of the most recognized brands in construction printing, ICON offers the Vulcan III gantry-style printer. At nearly 12 meters long by 3 meters wide and over 8 meters tall, it has substantial build capacity. And dual print heads print twice as fast as earlier versions. ICON also provides integrated software and materials. While pricing is only available on request, you get a comprehensive printing system.
MudBotsTM 3D Concrete Printers
As another gantry printer manufacturer, American startup MudBots strives to deliver more affordable systems. Ranging from $35,000 to $60,000, their smaller footprint printers still reach up to 22 meters long and 15 meters tall. MudBots simplifies materials and software for plug-and-play operation. Default concrete mixes facilitate regulatory approval. Cost-conscious builders could find this accessibility appealing.
Apis CorTM “Frank” Printer
Apis Cor (https://apis-cor.com)
The compact Russian-made “Frank” printer from Apis Cor contrastingly uses a robotic arm capable of printing whole houses under 200 square meters in 24 hours or less. Apis Cor also offers specialized concrete materials. While pricing and exact specs are proprietary, NASA and major clients validate the technology. Rapid printing in a portable package resonates for certain applications.
SQ4D is a construction technology company that specializes in 3D printed houses. The company’s ARCSTM 3D printer uses locally sourced materials and patented nozzle technology to build houses quickly and affordably.
As these diverse systems illustrate, buyers face tradeoffs in factors like cost, size, speed, and custom materials in selecting a construction 3D printer. Gantry, robotic arm, and hybrid designs each offer advantages depending on needs. Construction firms must weigh build volume, print speed, mobility, operating complexity, and other aspects against budget realities. But investment costs are dropping as technology progresses. Let’s examine construction printing’s benefits and remaining barriers.
Advantages of 3D Concrete Printers
Constructing dwellings and buildings through 3D printing provides some compelling advantages versus conventional stick framing or masonry techniques:
- Rapid Assembly By automating and consolidating steps like framing, wall building, and finishing, components can be printed continuously. Entire small homes may erect in days rather than weeks or months. This boost in speed also reduces labor costs.
- Customized Design Since 3D printers follow digital models, any geometries within print size limits can be constructed. Floorplans and ornamental features can personalize homes. Intricate architectural elements become feasible. 
- Waste Reduction Printing only required concrete for each component trims excessive material usage and waste versus cast concrete structures. There is also no discarded lumber or rebar scrap as with typical framing. 
- Consistency and Precision Automation ensures every component prints identically with minimal errors. And layers fuse strongly to resist cracks and stresses. The digital process enhances precision and repeatability.
- Resilience Monolithic printed homes better withstand severe weather, earthquake, and blast forces than structures built from separate framed components. Curves and shapes add stability.
- Affordability While printers have high upfront costs, reducing manual labor and excessive material usage provides cost advantages at scale. And design personalization adds no incremental expense.
Limitations and Challenges
However, realizing 3D printing’s promise faces some lingering constraints:
- Print Size Limits The largest printers still top out around 35 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 10 feet high. Printing modular components for assembly accommodates bigger buildings. Multi-story projects remain difficult.
- High Printer Costs Industrial-scale construction printers carry price tags from $200,000 to over $1 million. Bringing down hardware costs through advances will boost adoption.
- Material Development Finding the optimal concrete mixtures for quick printing and curing, interlayer adhesion, and strength requires further refinement.
- Building Codes Building codes and standards lag behind 3D printing technology. Permitting and inspecting printed elements poses challenges for both builders and officials.
- Post-Processing Work Steps like installing rebar reinforcement, plumbing, windows, utilities, and finishes still require substantial manual work after printing core structure and walls.
- Weather Constraints Many printers work only in controlled conditions. Protective measures for pouring concrete in rain, extreme temperatures, or wind add logistical difficulties.
- Operator Learning Curve Designing prints and operating the complex equipment necessitates specialized expertise spanning architecture, engineering, software, and construction.
But ongoing advances are making 3D construction printing more viable and lucrative. Let’s look at some emerging innovations that could transform adoption.
Future Opportunities and Outlook
While still an emerging field, smart investments in several key areas could rapidly accelerate construction printing and mitigate current barriers:
- Hybrid printing combining extrusion and robotic motion for unlimited build sizes
- Advanced concrete mixtures for faster curing and greater durability
- Standardized materials and protocols to facilitate regulatory approval
- Expanded funding and business models to reduce printer ownership costs
- Enhanced integration and automation of steps like reinforcement insertion and finishing
- Partnerships between builders, equipment makers, and material suppliers to smooth adoption
- Expanded training programs and certifications for digital construction trades
- Improved simulation software to optimize print designs for speed, strength and costs
- Construction-optimized CAD software for efficient architectural design
- AI-enabled defect detection and quality assurance methods
- On-site environmental control systems to print in inclement weather conditions
Additionally, global trends in population growth, urbanization, housing shortages and sustainability concerns favor adoption of technologies like 3D printing that promise faster, greener, resilient, and more affordable construction.
While forecasting timeframes is speculative, many experts see 3D printing transitioning from niche experimental projects to mainstream adoption in the next 5 to 10 years. That inflection point may arrive even sooner.
Real-World Printed Housing Projects
Pioneering companies are already breaking ground on applications that highlight 3D printing’s expansive potential:
- ICON’s Vulcan printer series has produced affordable homes in Mexico and the United States.
- COBOD is fabricating multi-story residential complexes like Project Milestone near Copenhagen using their BOD2 system.
- Construction projects for communities in Africa and Asia are employing WASP’s Crane WASP arm technology.
- CyBe constructs novel curved walls, ceilings, and facades with their mobile RC 3Dp robotic arm printer.
- Single-family houses have been printed from materials like clay using technologies developed by WASP and XtreeE.
- Habitat for Humanity employs 3D printing for faster, more resilient housing like their 3D printed home in Virginia.
From small studios to planned communities with thousands of units, accelerated construction 3D printing could soon be commonplace worldwide. Meanwhile, each completed project advances the technology.
Construction-scale 3D printing holds immense potential to revolutionize how we design and build living spaces. As printers grow ever larger and faster while costs decline, they are reaching capabilities necessary for mainstream adoption. Materials innovation and process improvements will further unlock 3D printing’s advantages.
An ecosystem is growing around construction-scale 3D printing, with pioneering firms like COBOD, ICON, and WASP leading the way. But many new entrants continue disrupting the status quo. Eventually, on-demand printed dwellings and buildings could be cost-effective, sustainable, resilient, and uniquely livable.
While the full extent of construction printing’s impact remains to be seen, its transformative promise is undeniable. 3D-printed homes and structures seem poised to open new frontiers in architectural creativity, digital fabrication, and human habitats. The printers profiled here offer a glimpse of the dwellings we may inhabit in the future.
-  Cemex Ventures Link
-  A review of 3D concrete printing systems and materials properties Link
-  Current Progress of 3D Concrete Printing Technologies Link
Explore Further: If you’re captivated by the transformative potential of 3D concrete printing in construction, we’ve curated an indispensable reading list for you. Ponder the pivotal question: Is 3D concrete printing the future?. Understand the robustness of 3D printed concrete, delve into the duration required to 3D print a house, and explore the admixtures essential for 3D concrete printing. Don’t miss the insights on the advantages of 3D printed concrete homes as well.