Additive construction has gained far-reaching momentum in recent years, proving to be a cheaper, faster and more sustainable solution to traditional home construction. Builders, attempting to close the gaps of the nation’s growing housing shortage, are seeking new ways to meet these challenges – and the answer may be found in a 3D printer.
While additive construction is still in the early stages of development, the ability to print in concrete with a high level of precision and a large build volume has already proven to be reliable and efficient for the construction industry.
While each builder’s project needs and budget may vary, here are the five best concrete printers currently on the market:
1. COBOD BOD2 Printer
Founded in 2017, Danish company COBOD has quickly built a reputation for itself as one of the industry’s leading additive construction companies. The company’s BOD2 3D Construction Printer, released in 2018, is the second edition of the company’s flagship printer and is considered one of the best concrete printers on the market today.
The BOD2’s modular truss structure makes it one of the most flexible concrete printers to date, granting the ability to configure to the exact dimensions of any project. The BOD2 can print in infinite lengths, and has a max build height and width of 47.9 ft and 26.5 ft, respectively.
The BOD2 can be set up and running in just 4 hours, and only needs a two-man operating crew to work with. Coupled with print speeds of 3.2 ft/s, the BOD2 advertises itself as the fastest printer on the market.
One unique feature of the BOD2 is the printer’s additional tangential nozzle. This separate flap allows vertical walls to be printed smoothly, by continuously following the print nozzle as concrete is poured, smoothing and texturing concrete walls – reducing the need for plastering and expanding design freedom.
The BOD2 also features two mounted cameras on the printer head, for easy live monitoring.
2.CyBe G Construction Printer
Founded in 2013 in the Netherlands, CyBe has spent the last decade solidifying itself in the additive manufacturing industry with the development of multiple printers and print materials – specifically the CyBe G Construction Printer.
The CyBe G Construction Printer is CyBe’s third – and largest – concrete printer. Best for printing multi-unit and multi-story buildings, CyBe’s gantry-style printer features a four column and three beam set up that can print anywhere within a three-dimensional zone. It features a 22.9 ft x 32.8 ft x 13.1 ft build range, and a 1.6 ft/s print speed with an ABB-controlled print head and nozzle. In a factory setting, CyBe’s printer is capable of printing a large modular unit in just 20 minutes, and only needs a two-man operating crew.
The CyBe G Construction Printer uses the Prefabricated Prefinished Volumetric Construction building method, or PPVC. With PPVC, modular units are printed off-site (in a factory setting) and then shipped to their final destination, where they’ll be assembled together into a completed modular unit.
3. Black Buffalo Nexcon 1G 3D Printer
Black Buffalo stealthily emerged in the additive construction scene in 2020, and has since left its mark with the advent of its Nexcon 1G 3D Printer.
The Nexcon 1G 3D Printer features a gantry-style, multi-axis frame, with a 26.25 ft x 26.25 ft x 26.25 ft build area, and a maximum print speed of 9.8 in/s. It can be assembled within 1-3 days, and needs 2-3 operators to keep running.
Featuring an expandable track system, builders can purchase additional tracks as their project needs change or simply reposition the printer’s base – no need to dismantle the X and Y axis of the gantry.
The Nexcon also features a printer nozzle with an open hopper design and interchangeable tips, allowing builders to switch heads, as needed.
4. Apis Cor’s “Frank” Printer
Apis Cor’s most well-known team member, “Frank,” has made a name for itself in recent years as one of the best robotic arm construction printers on the market.
Unlike the standard gantry style printers commonly used in additive construction, Frank is a small, semi-autonomous printer printer that only requires 30 minutes to assemble and a two-man crew to remotely operate. Frank can also be transported across job sites with just a flatbed truck.
Frank has a 360 degree rotating mobile platform, with a maximum print height of 10.4 ft and a width of 18 ft, and can print infinite square footage – so long as the land is available – with an average print speed of 1.1 ft/s.
5. Crane WASP Infinity 3D Printer
Released in 2018, the Crane Infinity 3D Printer is the third iteration of 3D concrete printers by Italian construction company WASP.
The most unique feature of the Crane Infinity 3D Printer is its ability to conform to various configurations. Multiple cranes and print arms can be added to the main printer’s base, expanding the printer area from 538 sq/ft to over 1,076 sq/ft – providing infinite print capabilities.
This mega printer offers a print volume of 21.6 ft in diameter, and 9.8 ft in height, with a print speed of 0.9 in/s, and a variable nozzle diameter of 0.7-1.1 in.
The Crane Infinity 3D Printer also features the ability to print with multiple material types besides concrete, such as earth-based materials (such as bio-concrete), and geopolymers.
While these printers are considered the best in the class for construction for their precision, large build volumes and ability to print in concrete, it’s important for builders to consider factors such as cost, maintenance and technical support before making a decision.