Over the last 12-18 months we have seen numerous companies and individuals around the world reveal concepts and actual prototypes (if you can call them that) of large 3D printed structures such as homes. Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis’ Contour Crafting seems to be the furthest along within this space, with their printers reportedly ready to be sold sometime in the next 18-24 months, but there are also other smaller companies working on this technology as well.
One such company is Imatra, Finland-based Fimatec, founded by CEO Arto Koivuharju. A small company with staggeringly large ambitions, Fimatec is seeking to 3D print modular apartment buildings sooner rather than later. Their process of printing is said to be incredibly comprehensive. Not only will their technology, which mixes 3D printing with robotic fabrication, be able to print out the concrete exterior walls of a home, but it will also print out insulating materials and inner walls as well.
To begin with, the walls will be printed within a manufacturing facility in large segments and then shipped off to the build site where apartments can quickly be constructed. Ultimately though, Koivuharju wants to bring the entire printing process on-site, reducing transportation costs dramatically.
“The cost is 10-20 percent less than with traditional concrete element building, and the units are constructed 70-80 percent faster,” Koivuharju explained. “When building on-site, the costs can drop by half.”
On Tuesday, Koivuharju unveiled an entire 3D printed wall which he sees as the future of home construction. So far Koivuharju has managed to finance this project himself, developing print heads and patenting the technology at a cost of approximately €200,000, but he says that further funding will be required for this idea to become a thriving business. He hopes to raise at least another €1.5 million to commence a pilot project which will see the construction of these modular apartment buildings begin sometime next year.
“We assume that by the second half of next year we will have a suitable industrial version of the device available,” said the Managing Director of Fimatec, Birch Harju, who believes that the technology will be able to produce walls which meet and surpass Finnish building regulations.
According to Fimatec this is the only machine capable of printing the interior and exterior elements of a wall, including the placement of insulation as well as reinforcement. With that said, we were told by Khohnevis earlier in the year that his company, Contour Crafting, was also building a machine capable of printing insulating material as well as interior wall structures.
Koivuharju’s approach currently seems to be more in line with that of Winsun, the Chinese company that purportedly constructed the concrete exterior of several apartment buildings and a home off-site before shipping the walls to the ultimate build location.
It will be interesting to see if Koivuharju is able to secure the necessary funding required for the further development of his system, and just how quickly such a system can gain approval within Finland–or any other country for that matter. Let’s hear your thoughts on the latest in 3D home building technology in the Fimatec 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.