As most of you know we write on a lot of fun, interesting and exciting 3D printing & rapid prototyping stories here, but this one I have to sayHobbyists and industrial personalities all over the world are eager to discover the full potential of rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing and 3D printing; trying to explore and test the limits of the technologies. Similar is the case of Andrey Rudenko, a Minnesota based contractor working on a gigantic construction project unlike anything else. Using an expanded and modified 3D printer, he has in fact, printed out an entire, life sized concrete castle. Crazy right!?
Situated in his very backyard and standing 3 meters tall and 5 meters wide, this happens to be the world’s first ever 3D printed concrete castle. Rather than building a temporary exhibit for history enthusiasts or theme parks, Rudenko was keener on building a castle that could withstand outside conditions like any real house would. The project was initiated out of a desire for building realistic, inhabitable and durable houses for the future. Already considering various locations to test the castle out, Rudenko realized that it is crucial to keep in mind different terrains and weather conditions for experimental printing, since there is no way to predict what kind of conditions might arise.
With Rudenko’s architecture and engineering background, he chose to first 3D print his amazing castle so that he could experiment with and search for the possibilities and limits of the machine to be offered to other construction companies. The unique features of the castle actually offer various challenging opportunities, leaving room for minor tweaks to the machine. Of course, the castle looks and feels ethereal- serving as quite the show stopper at his backyard.
Rudenko has had his interest in the field of 3D printing since his teens, and his experiments with concrete 3D printing began when he was around twenty years old. However, advanced software and computing services were not available for rapid prototyping and 3D printing. It seemed to be an impossible feat until Rudenko came across a project on RepRap, after which he began to work on his printer again. The building of the machine itself and developing of special concrete mixes took an entire year. For the intricate structure of the castle, the natural layers of sandstone in Arizona worked as an inspiration.
A project of this magnitude needed a printer just as big, hence Rudenko had to construct his own printer. Even though the printer was entirely his design, a lot of helpful feedback was provided by the RepRap community as well. The main driver of the massive printer is anArduino Mega 2560 board and printing software not too different from other printers, yet it required special stepper drivers for the large size. This was done to ensure it could handle the weight of the large machine as well as software and firmware compatibility. Mass Mind by James Newton was the best fit Rudenko found for the printer. These were the only drivers to be working properly with the firmware of choice- Marlin Firmware after sampling with other drivers. It was also powerful enough to move a printer of this magnitude.
A somewhat similar printer was developed at USC by Behrokh Khoshnevis, yet slightly different. Eliminating the need of any additional finishing steps, Rudenko’s printer churns out natural texture similar to the rammed earth technology. The contractor is also interested in developing a portable printer that can be utilized by and is affordable to smaller construction companies. Khoshnevis’s larger and sturdier printer would obviously be at a higher price point than his.
When he has enough resources, Rudenko wants to put together a number of kits that can be put together by small companies and individual consumers on their own. Some components such as the control box, extruder and certain major parts etc. can be shipped so that individuals can make their own printers.
One of the main challenges of the project was definitely the financial constraint. Potential sponsors were rather skeptical about providing funds as they did not think the technology held much promise. To tackle this, the contractor decided to finance the project independently, leading to various creatively engineered solutions. Also, after completion of the project, Rudenko plans to hold an auction for the ownership of the first house. He hopes that this will become a prominent landmark and there will be many people interested to take this opportunity.
The castle building process being complete, this has been a learning process for the contractor’s future plans. Currently, Rudenko has been printing a 50 centimeter layering a day, even though the width and size of these layers are varying throughout the entire construction. Layer after layer is printed in a regular 30 millimeter width and 10 millimeter height; however, Rudenko is capable of printing layers of any size. This is particularly helpful for special areas, such as crown moldings. In these areas, the height is being reduced to 5 millimeters. The speed is also being reduced for delicate places.
The next project by Rudenko would be an actual, habitable house of full scale. With his amazing castle helping him get correspondence, he now has an idea that the demand for 3D printed houses will be healthy in future. He is focusing on putting together the right team doing the job in order to fully reap the benefits of the 3D printer. Obviously, this creating could really help a lot of third world countries where houses are simply too expensive. It will be interesting to see how this all evolves for sure.
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