The construction industry itself is dominated by huge corporations with equally huge budgets, many small startups and even one-man businesses. Among them is Alex Le Roux, a Houston, Texas-based student who has just reached a remarkable milestone. Using his own V2 Vesta 3D printer, he has just completed the first 3D printed livable structure in the US.
Of course this is not the first 3D printed home in the world, as that first place was taken by Chinese construction pioneers WinSun in 2014, when they built ten 3D printed homes. Nor is the only concrete 3D printing project in America; remember Andrey Rudenko’s 3D printed fantasy castle?
However, Alex has become the first in the US to construct a building that you could, theoretically, live in. It’s the culmination of a project that has been ongoing for quite some time. A mechanical engineering student at Baylor University, Texas, Alex previously unveiled his 8’ x 8’ x 8’ concrete 3D printer almost a year ago.
Fully based on open-source RepRap designs, that promising initial model was built to enable the 3D printing of concrete structures for housing purposes. In late 2015, the student followed up on it by building the upgraded V2 Vesta 3D printer, featuring a 10’ x 10’ x 10’ build volume to enable huge concrete 3D prints. A RepRap machine like its predecessor, it is especially remarkable for being usable on-site and in imperfect weather conditions. Whereas most concrete 3D printers are used in workshops, with the prints being shipped to location, the V2 Vesta can actually be used on regular construction sites and features shielded electronics for easy use. What’s more, it can be set up in just 30 minutes, making it extremely easy and versatile in use.
With print speeds of approximately 0.3 foot per second (horizontally) and a flow rate of 4 concrete liters per second, the Vesta 2 looked very impressive on paper. All it really needed was an equally ambitious test, and Alex found that in the ‘Tiny House’ project. And as you can see, that was a complete success as well. While more of a shed than a home, the 8 by 5 by 7 feet structure (with an interior floor plan of 7 by 4 feet) definitely proves the machine’s viability.
As Alex revealed, it was also relatively easy to 3D print. The project was partly funded by Modeco Development LLC, and took about 24 hours to complete. Only a single person needed to be continuously present, operating the computer and feeding concrete into the machine.
What’s more, Alex was able to use a relatively inexpensive Portland-cement based mix during 3D printing, which means costs can be kept as low as possible. The makers are, however, also experimenting with more environmentally-friendly cement mixes, which will only complement the technology’s relatively waste-free nature.
While we wouldn’t want to live in the house just yet (barely fitting a mattress), it certainly shows that Alex is heading in the right direction with his V2 Vesta 3D printer. This proof-of-concept is also getting other balls rolling. In August, Alex hopes to debut the upgraded V3 Vesta 3D printer, which will be three times faster than the V2, while they also have a contract lined up to 3D print part of a completely up-to-code home in Michigan. “It will be another big breakthrough,” he tells us. He is also already looking at raising funds from institutional investors, especially if traction keeps growing at this rate. At this pace, Alex and the Vesta concrete 3D printer are heading for success.
Image Credit / Article via 3ders.org