Saturday, February 24, 2024

Robotic 3D printer to build UK’s first fire-resistant home

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, is a versatile technique that can create various objects from different materials. It has been widely adopted in various industries, such as engineering, architecture, and medicine. From small machine parts to large structures like bridges, this technology has proven to be reliable and efficient.

One of the emerging applications of 3D printing is in the construction sector, where it can offer fast and efficient solutions for building houses and other facilities.

RIC Technology’s robotic 3D printer will help construct the U.S.’s first fire-resistant, onsite-built concrete ADU in Walnut, California, in January 2024. Builtech Construction Group will lead the project from design to finish, and K4K Construction Design will be the subcontractor responsible for 3D printing.

The U.S. is facing a housing shortage, especially in populated residential areas, and adding accessory dwelling units (ADUs) is a cost-effective way to address this issue. However, using 3D printing for reconstructing old houses or building ADUs in crowded neighborhoods can be challenging. Traditional 3D printing methods are not suitable for ADUs because they require large, complicated machines that cannot fit in small backyards.

Rendering of the Walnut ADU.
Rendering of the Walnut ADU. Credit: RIC Technology

“Our compact modular robotic 3D printer overcomes these limitations, enabling 3D construction in people’s backyards,” said Ziyou Xu, founder and CEO of RIC Technology. He continued, “This marks a milestone in the housing industry, expanding the scope of concrete 3D printing’s application in constructing affordable housing.”

The Walnut ADU will also be non-combustible and fire-resistant to address the wildfire crisis in California. “3D printing is well-suited for constructing fire-resistant homes due to the non-combustible nature of the concrete we use to print,” said Xu.

Wildfires burned 4.2 million acres across California in 2020, costing over $1 billion in fire protection and claiming 31 lives, according to CalMatters. Philips and Constance, a Walnut couple, wanted to support fireproof construction and agreed to help Builtech Construction Group build a fire-resistant ADU in their backyard. This 1200-square-foot ADU will have two bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms.

The exterior walls of the ADU will be 3D printed using concrete – a non-combustible material. Additionally, the roof will be made from steel and sure-boards, distinguishing it from other 3D-printed homes that often feature wooden structural roofs. Furthermore, Builtech will also strengthen the areas of a home that are traditionally vulnerable to fires, such as eave vents and windows.

“The ADU will be built without a single piece of wood or nail – no ‘fuel’ on the main structure,” said Aaron Liu, CEO of Builtech Construction Group and an NFPA-certified wildfire mitigation specialist (CWMS). “So we significantly minimize the likelihood of fire entering the home, enhancing the safety of the structure.”