It was a typical sunny day in Casa Grande, Arizona, when I had the unique opportunity to explore a construction site that was anything but typical. Nestled amidst the vast expanses of desert was a housing revolution in progress: Diamond Age 3D‘s construction site, where new-age homes were literally being printed into existence. Diamond Age is the Phoenix-based startup whose contract with Century Communities is fueling the Casa Grande project. Unlike other additive construction companies, this is a firm that has developed multiple end-of-arm tools for automated building.
As I stepped onto the construction site, the first thing I noticed was the strange yet fascinating sight of partially completed homes, a ton of them, all in various stages of construction. Instead of the conventional hammering and nailing, there was a quiet hum of printers smoothing out the walls, cutting layers to precision, and a few finished homes dotted across the landscape, a testament to the prowess of 3D printed construction.
I had a chance to meet a cross-section of people directly involved with this cutting-edge project. One of the first was Nate, a new homeowner whose excitement was palpable. His decision to opt for a 3D printed house over conventional stick-and-wood housing was driven by the lure of novelty. Besides, the house’s energy efficiency, keeping it cool even in the hot Arizona weather, proved a welcome bonus, slashing his electricity bills to a third.
Russell Varone, CTO and co-founder of Diamond Age 3D, gave me a fascinating rundown of the entire construction process. From the 2020-built first machine extruding concrete discreetly, to their patented positioning system that corrected the positioning about 20 times a second, the site was a testament to human ingenuity. The system was designed to be weather resistant, account for solar thermal expansion and wind sway, and was even built to handle the heft of heavy tools.
As we strolled through the site, it was remarkable how the home had been designed to accommodate standard Home Depot materials and fittings, thus streamlining the build process further.
A highlight of the visit was a chat with Patrick, a former Army drone operator who now manages the in-house, proprietary software for Diamond Age. His insights into how the system allowed for a step-by-step execution of building plans in real-time were an enlightening look into the tech side of the construction.
What struck me most was the team’s focus on minimizing the physical toll construction takes on the human body. The team’s ultimate goal is to create a safer and more sustainable work environment, with robots doing the heavy lifting, allowing people to focus more on thinking, creative and fine-detailed jobs.
Walking through a nearly completed house gave me a firsthand look at how a 3D printed house could mimic traditional house designs. I could see the minimal noise transfer due to concrete walls, and the increased energy efficiency made possible by the spray foam insulation in every wall.
Before leaving the site, I had a conversation with Paul Zeta, the regional president for Century Complete Homes. His enthusiastic views about the amalgamation of robotics and traditional construction methods, and how it translated to building quality, sustainable, and highly efficient homes, resonated with me.
Looking back at the houses being crafted under the Arizona sun, I felt I had truly witnessed a small piece of construction history that day. The promise held by Diamond Age 3D’s printed homes might just be the solution we need for the future – a harmonious blend of technology, sustainability, and efficient construction.
Jarrett Gross is a Construction Automation Citizen Journalist. Visit his website: Automateconstruction.com.
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