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AMS Spring 2023

Texas Engineering Student Self-Funds & Builds 8′ x 8′ x 8′ Concrete 3D Printer

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tumblr_ns0opd5FOu1twzv8eo2_400We’ve seen some innovative work coming from out west, famous for its vast, open spaces where industrious and progressive makers and hackers often live off grid, artists gain organic inspiration from the deserts ruled by wildlife and mother nature, and students such as Alex Le Roux attend large universities offering progressive technology curriculums.

Everyone knows they tend to do things differently in Texas–yes, that’s right–bigger and better, and Le Roux certainly doesn’t disappoint as he comes straight out of the gate with an 8’ x 8’x 8’ concrete 3D printer. The mechanical engineering student is a senior at Baylor University in Waco, TX–home to 15,000 students–as well as a learning institution that boasts a renowned research facility. The mechanical engineering department itself focuses on research in biomechanical design, thermal and energy engineering, and natural and advanced materials engineering–which is obviously where Le Roux’s project would fit in.

sideNot just a concept, and not just talk, the 3D printer pumps out reliable, steady layers of concrete and Le Roux has indeed produced more than an enormous and functional piece of machinery, he has made a working prototype that exemplifies not only how 3D printing can change the face of education in engineering (although Le Roux has funded this entire project himself), but how it does indeed show the propensity for transforming manufacturing in the future.

Set to graduate in December, Le Roux has put his engineering and design chops to the test with this Texas-sized 3D printer that features a wooden frame. With layer heights of around .75 cm, the current speed is approximately 50mm per second, but Le Roux sees that being improved significantly with future iterations. And indeed, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why his goal of building a small 3D printed house would not be entirely possible.

“The prints are coming out pretty nicely, competitive with the few other concrete printers currently in development,” Le Roux told 3DPrint.com.

While the idea of building a 3D printed home may cause many outside of the 3D printing world roll the eyes or raise the brow, it’s not so far-fetched. We’ve reported on numerous event, residential, and business constructions, from a 3D printed apartment building in Shanghai to the latest in Dubai–offering plans for an entirely 3D printed office building, including the furniture.

“The project has been funded entirely by me which has stretched my college-student budget significantly,” Le Roux said. “The development costs came out to be approximately $2500; however, if the printer were to be made again today, the cost would be approximately $1500.”

UntitledFor his next prototype, Le Roux also projects incorporating an entirely metal frame to help control vibration issues and offer more solid support and rigidity.

Obviously, the implications for 3D printing in construction are substantial, and the potential concrete 3D printers hold for building more solid, affordable structures is real. While the time and money put into this project may have led to some sacrifice for Le Roux, what he may have indeed built for himself is a place as an innovator and an inventor with others in the industry not only envying his technological prowess, but coming to him for help with further projects as the world embraces 3D printing in construction–and all other sectors–worldwide. While 3D printing in architecture and construction may look like a great idea, 3D printers like this support the impending reality.

Have you been interested in 3D printing with concrete or other industrial materials? How do you foresee 3D printing changing the face of construction and architecture? Discuss in the Concrete 3D Printer forum over at 3DPB.com.

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