Process of 3D concrete printing

What materials are 3D printed houses made of?

Today, one can find 3D printed houses on every continent of the world, which opens up the discussion about the currently used and possible future materials. Therefore, this article will introduce you to some of the most commonly used components. In addition, we will also briefly explore innovations within the field to better understand what materials a 3D printed house is made of.  

What is a 3D printed house made of? 

As with traditionally constructed houses, one can build 3D printed houses out of many materials. Although concrete and mortar are the most commonly used materials for 3D construction, there are examples of buildings with walls printed in recycled plastic, mud and even waste from rice production. 

A balanced amount of different components

Usually, many components are involved when discussing materials used in 3D construction printing. However, no matter what material you are working with, balancing all elements is essential to print a 3D house successfully. A good balance should result in solid walls that do not shrink or crack after printing. 

For example, concrete is, as mentioned before, one of the most used materials for 3D printed houses. It usually contains the dry components cement, sand, gravel and aggregates. Those materials are later mixed with water to create a reaction that transforms the dry powder into a thick, liquid mass.  

The reaction between water and cement results in strength – making concrete a reliable and solid material for buildings. You want this reaction to happen at a certain pace, not too fast or too slow. The additives help prevent problems like clogging in the printer system or concrete that does not dry in a preferred way.  

D.fab admixture
The process of creating 3D printable material

How long do 3D printed houses last?

The strength and reliability of a 3D printed house mainly depend on the material and local environmental factors. Most houses built with 3D concrete printing technology are meant to last for many decades, at least for houses printed with concrete or mortar.  

A well-composed concrete mix stands better against common defects such as walls cracking and water permeability. Since the technology is still developing, it is hard to estimate precisely how long a 3D house will last, but the results of resilience measurements suggest that a balanced 3D printed concrete house lasts for about 50–300 years.  

Innovation helps us overcome the challenges with construction materials

There are many exciting ideas about what materials we can use when building 3D printed houses in the future. For example, with an innovative mindset, byproducts from other industries (such as steel and plastic) can be potential components in the future.  

However, the construction industry also needs innovative ideas for already available options. Concrete is a preferred material to work with because of its durability and strength, which is one of the main reasons why 14 billion m3 of concrete were used globally during 2020. Unfortunately, there is a downside to this reliable material. The production of the often vital component cement is causing a high CO2 emission, which today is responsible for 8% – 12% of global CO2 emissions.  

To be able to offer a more sustainable version of concrete, COBOD and CEMEX started to collaborate on an innovative solution. Together, we have developed an additive mix called D.fab, which enables a lower amount of cement in the material mix. D.fab also allows you to work with up to 99% locally sourced concrete materials, which opens up better utilization of onsite materials and fewer transportation emissions. Read more about the D.fab mix and how it works here

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