3D printing of houses has been just around the corner for years; we first showed Behrokh Khoshnevis's contour crafting system in 2007. However his system required setting down tracks for a rolling gantry, working much like a pen plotter used to. Now Russian engineer Nikita Chen-yun-tai has built Apis-Cor, a 3D printer that looks like a tower crane with a nozzle on the end; you set it up in the middle of the building (much like you would with a crane) and it squirts away. The designer tells 3Dprint.com:
This printer doesn’t have any massive and hard-to-install railings, on which it could move around the site, yet even that doesn’t limit its possibilities–from a single point of construction it can build up to 192 square meters of lodging with almost no limitations in height. Ecologists may also feel quite enthusiastic about this machine, as it doesn’t leave any construction waste and consumes only eight kilowatts of energy–as much as five working teapots.
The machine appears to lay down a sort of concrete truss much like the Chinese WinSun system, and can also print horizontally as shown here, or the components can be tilted up. Because it is so small and light, it can be set up in a short time and stretch to cover a 630 SF footprint. Bridget at 3Dprint is excited:
Referred to as a mobile 3D printer, companies using the Apis Cor are able to not only 3D print buildings but they can do it simply. Numerous jobs that might even normally have safety and environmental hazards can be performed by the Apis Cor as well as eliminating error. The reality of entire buildings being constructed in one day would be mindblowing in urban areas alone, but just imagine the real impact for developing countries. The Apis Cor could literally change people’s lives in a day.
I think that is perhaps overstating the case. The structure of a building is only a small portion of its cost and time; there is also insulation and windows and plumbing and wiring. A good crew can frame a house in a day too. But it will be interesting to see this machine in action.