AMS Spring 2023

SpaceX 3D Printed Building Under Construction in Texas

Inkbit

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SpaceX has already established itself as a pioneer in the 3D printing of rocket parts, even seeing one of its engineers launch his own successful rocket 3D printing startup. Additionally, we’ve seen additive construction explored as a possible tool for producing structures on the moon and Mars. It was only a matter of time that we saw these two space applications cross paths and, now, we’ve seen that SpaceX has actually used construction 3D printing to build an extension to its facility on South Padre Island in Texas.

Footage of the 3D printed building. Image courtesy of Jarett Gross/Automate Construction. 

As a part of The Hub, a small meeting spot situated between two launch pads, the building was made using an Apis Cor system. According to Jarett Gross, who broke the story for his blog, Automate Construction, “Apis Cor uses a rental business model where customers must commit to a 1 year agreement. This project with SpaceX may have been a rental or may have just been something Apis was contracted to build as a one off and I am leaning towards the later because I didn’t see the printer there anymore and it was still actively under construction.”

Gross visited the site in person and noted that no new electrical or plumbing needed to be integrated into the building. Moreover, he saw no cracking, apparently common in 3D printed buildings. As much as I have written about the technology, I have yet to see a 3D printed building in person.

The blogger received an anonymous tip about the 3D printed structure, sending him to visit the site. Interestingly, the tip came after it was reported that SpaceX could be heading toward bankruptcy. Given the headlines that additive construction tends to generate and the possibility that it has been used as a public relations move in the past, it wouldn’t be surprising if unveiling this 3D printed building at the right time could help distract from the company’s financial woes.

Nevertheless, this is one of the most prominent users of construction 3D printing technology so far, validating it to some extent. We can take it as a sign of things to come, as additive construction is sure to explode in the coming several years, if not in 2022 alone.

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