3D Concrete Printing FAQs
Get answers to the basics of 3D construction concrete printing, as well as X-Hab 3D printers, materials, and more.
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There are still plenty of questions surrounding the emerging technology of 3D concrete printing. Look below for the category that piques your interest you.
3D concrete printing (3DCP), aka additive construction, is a method of fabricating large-scale structures (houses, buildings, or construction components). It quickly creates shapes impossible to build with traditional methods of casting concrete.
How does 3D concrete printing work? A computer control directs the extrusion of concrete, layer by layer, following a digital design converted to printing instructions for the robotic printer.
The process saves building time and cost, while relieving the labor shortages plaguing many industries.
Since the Romans, concrete construction has used essentially the same method: forms, reinforcement, mixing, pouring, setting, demolding, repeat. This conventional process is costly, time-consuming, and taking a toll on the environment because of its carbon-intensive makeup.
For the first time in history, builders have an alternative to traditional concrete building. Concrete 3D printing is an automated process that uses stronger, lighter, and more eco-friendly materials. It dramatically reduces build time and material usage while expanding job site safety and design possibilities.
X-Hab 3D’s agile, expeditionary approach reduces the need for site preparation, heavy equipment, and local infrastructure, resulting in significant savings in time and cost. It also enables construction in remote areas where supporting equipment and infrastructure isn’t available.
X-Hab 3D technology is an integrated ecosystem of hardware, printing material, and software. The package includes all necessary components:
- 3D concrete printer with on-board power system, extrusion system, print heads, & material feed system
- Software for design & real-time adjustment
- Proprietary concrete mix (optional)
- Spare parts kit, instruction manual, setup, training, safety gear, & tech support
3D concrete printers range in weight from about 7,500 lbs. for X-Hab 3D’s mobile robotic arm-style printer, to more than 40,000 lbs. for Black Buffalo’s NexCon printer. X-Hab 3D’s mobile 3D printer fits on a flatbed trailer or in a 20 ft. shipping container.
Building with 3D concrete requires a system that carefully accounts for material stability, flow, and deformation. Poor results have historically been a byproduct of the printer manufacturer offering bare-bones training.
X-Hab 3D purchases include a structured training program and 24/7 tech support. And because our system is integrated, it’s easy to monitor for issues on your own and adjust in real time.
A robot arm-style printer can be either fixed or mobile. Its print range is defined by the reach of its extendable arm vertically and below grade, but unlimited horizontally when fitted with a mobile track system. It also has 6-axis movement, which enables it to print complex geometries.
The print area of a gantry-style machine is limited to inside the gantry frame. It lacks the flexibility to print complex geometries.
Because X-Hab robotic arm printers arrive at the job site fully assembled, setup time and transportation costs are reasonable.
Setup and disassembly of the gantry-style printer on-site is far more complex, labor-intensive, and time-consuming.
A robotic arm-style printer needs only a forklift to load the silo with construction material. A water source and diesel fuel must be available.
A gantry printer requires a heavy-lift crane to set up and disassemble the gantry frame. It also requires a cement truck to pour the foundation, plus anchor pads for stabilizing the gantry frame prior to setup.
X-Hab 3D’s mobile robotic printer arrives at the construction site fully assembled. It takes two people about 1 hour to set up and test the system.
The setup process includes:
- Connecting the mobile printer, controller, and material feed system
- Adding materials and water
- Positioning the printer
We can customize the concrete mix’s strength to your requirements. Our baseline material is as strong as, if not stronger, than traditionally mixed concrete.
Additionally, we’ve engineered the X-Hab 3D system’s print patterns to be more structurally stable than poured concrete.
A primary focus of X-Hab 3D is development of low-carbon, eco-friendly construction material that uses locally sourced and/or recyclable resources for the aggregate.
X-Hab 3D’s concrete mixtures are a blend of sand, gravel, and other locally sourced materials, along with cementitious additives. We engineer your material to meet or exceed the compression, tensile, and flexural strength requirements for the structure.
X-Hab continues to develop lighter, stronger, more flexible, more durable, and more sustainable materials.
X-Hab’s focus is to ensure customers can use local, nonproprietary materials. This keeps costs down and reduces the impact of supply chain variability.
If you’d like, X-Hab can source the materials for you. X-Hab 3D is developing its own sustainable admixtures to enhance concrete properties for your particular project needs.
Yes! X-Hab printers are compatible with a wide range of 3D-printable concrete mixes. We can help you evaluate options.
River sand has a round shape that enhances flow of the blend. Manufactured (crushed rock) sand has sharper angles to its shape, but the system can still use it.
X-Hab can work with you to determine the most effective option.
Expect a printed home to last as long or longer than standard concrete masonry unit homes, which last about 100 years. The homes are built to International Building Code structural standards.
X-Hab 3D’s robotic printer and its outputs are built to perform in the most difficult environments. Examples include:
- Artificial reefs for barrier reconstruction
- Remote Alaskan housing
- Disaster zones
- Unimproved lots and terrain where gantry printers cannot reach
Our versatile printers can scale construction speed and cost-efficiency for both low- and high-intensity applications. We serve residential, commercial, industrial, government, and infrastructure customers. Examples include:
- Rapid housing construction in rugged terrain
- Disaster recovery
- Artificial barrier reefs
- R & D and academic institution projects
Yes, we provide a rental option. You’ll still get the same, complete service and support package as purchasing customers.
Contact us for pricing details.
In addition to helping you scale your building operations, X-Hab’s printing system provides cost savings in many ways:
- 40-60% in materials
- Weeks of worker-days added back to your calendar
- Up to 70% in labor
The owners of 3D-printed concrete buildings save, too, via greater energy efficiency and resistance to weather, fire, and pests.
No – that’s where you come in! However, we offer printing and technical services to builders and construction firms who don’t want to develop them in-house.
X-Hab 3D printers come with our complete training program, covering:
- Design software
- Material choice & mixing
- Equipment operation
- Printing techniques
- Safety protocols
- Storage & maintenance
X-Hab 3D provides 24/7 technical support for its customers. We can remotely access your sensor and camera data, pinpointing a solution within minutes.
We support customer building code requirements as much as possible, particularly when you use our construction material and design-and-engineering plans.
Most building codes are established and enforced at the state and local levels, varying from one jurisdiction to another. We recommend that you find a local structural engineer to work with regulators from the project’s outset to ensure your plans align with code requirements.