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Leveraging Large-Scale 3D Printers to Construct Affordable Housing

Author: Insider ArtTime: 2024-01-23 22:15:01

Table of Contents

Introducing Alquist and Our Focus on 3D-Printed Affordable Housing

Alquist is a company focused on using large-scale 3D printers to construct affordable housing in rural and underserved areas. Our standard home sizes range from 1,500 to 1,300 square feet for single family units.

We utilize construction 3D printers and other specialized equipment to manufacture homes directly on site, allowing for faster and more cost-effective builds compared to traditional construction.

Our Standard Home Sizes and Printer Equipment

To print our affordable housing units, we typically work with homes between 1,500 and 1,300 square feet in size for single families. This allows us to meet the needs of most homeowners and keep costs low. Our on-site printing process requires specialized equipment including the 3D printer itself, a control panel to operate and monitor print settings, a silo to hold the dry print material, and an integrated system to mix the material with water and pump it to the printer nozzle.

On-Site Preparation Before Printing Begins

Before printing can begin, we prepare the site by creating a concrete slab or ribbon footing where the home will be situated. The 3D printer and other equipment are then strategically set up around this location. Having a stabilized base is crucial for accurately placing the first layers of print material and ensuring the structural integrity of the home.

How Our Construction 3D Printing Process Works

The 3D printing construction process starts with a computer-aided design (CAD) file that directs the printer's exact movements. It then deposits thin layers of concrete print material onto the building site to fabricate the home layer-by-layer.

Starting with a Digital Design Created in CAD

Everything begins with a CAD model that outlines the precise specifications of the home. This virtual design acts as a guide for the printer, showing it exactly where to move, how fast to print, and how much material to extrude at every point along the planned print path. The CAD file essentially contains virtual cross-sections of the entire house that the printer will replicate on site layer-by-layer using concrete.

The Printer Nozzle Deposits Material in Thin Layers

Following the digital CAD model, the 3D printer nozzle extrudes a specialized concrete print material in thin horizontal layers across the building footprint. Each printed layer serves as a foundation for the next one until the entire home structure is complete. Typically, we print layers about 0.75 inches thick. At that thickness, a standard 9 foot wall would be made up of approximately 150 printed layers stacked vertically.

Printing Doorways and Windows with Steel Lintels

Creating openings for doors and windows during the printing process poses an extra challenge. As the printer reaches these voids in the wall design, it must pause printing, lift over the opening, and resume printing on the other side. To provide structural support above these openings, we insert steel lintels (load-bearing beams) that span the top of the void. The printer then continues depositing print material on top of the steel support system.

Key Benefits of 3D-Printed Home Construction

Using 3D printing for home building provides faster construction times, reduced labor costs, and enhanced energy efficiency compared to conventional building methods.

Faster Build Times and Reduced Labor Costs

With automated 3D printing doing most of the physical construction work, homes can be built faster than relying completely on human crews. This accelerated schedule also leads to lower labor requirements and expense. In addition, each printed layer only takes 5-10 minutes to set before adding the next layer. This is much faster than traditional brick and mortar construction.

Enhanced Thermal Efficiency and Energy Savings

The layered concur print walls have an insulated structure that makes them thermally efficient. This helps reduce energy usage for heating and cooling resulting in utility bill savings for the homeowner.

Customizable Nozzle Designs for Different Aesthetics

The 3D printer nozzle can be customized to create different concrete finish patterns on the printed walls. Squared nozzles yield a flat surface aesthetic while rounded nozzles produce a more prominent ridged texture.

These nozzle variations provide design flexibility without impacting the structural integrity of the printed components.

How 3D-Printed Construction Supports Local Job Growth

While 3D printing introduces more automation to replace certain manual construction jobs, we view this technology as an opportunity for job growth rather than a threat. Our printers still require specialized operators and support crews.

We hire and train local workers to run our machines whenever we initiate new 3D construction projects. This directly creates skilled employment opportunities for nearby communities.


Alquist utilizes large-scale 3D printing innovations to manufacture affordable housing. This technology enables faster and less expensive home construction along with energy savings, design flexibility, and local job creation. 3D printing leads the way toward more sustainable and economical housing development.


Q: What size homes does Alquist 3D print?
A: We typically print single family homes ranging from 1,300 to 1,500 square feet.

Q: What equipment is used for large-scale 3D printing?
A: We use around 5-6 pieces of equipment including the printer, control panel, material silo and mixing/pumping systems.

Q: How does the 3D printing process work?
A: It starts with a CAD design file that guides the printer nozzle to deposit material in thin, overlapping layers until the house structure is fully formed.

Q: How are doors and windows printed?
A: Steel lintels are manually installed to bridge these openings, providing support for the printer nozzle to continue printing above.

Q: What are the benefits of 3D-printed homes?
A: Faster construction, reduced labor costs, enhanced energy efficiency and durability over time.

Q: Can the nozzle be customized?
A: Yes, nozzles can be square or rounded for different aesthetics while maintaining structural integrity.

Q: Does this replace construction jobs?
A: No, we hire and train local crews to run our 3D printers, replacing any jobs lost through automation.

Q: How long does it take to 3D print a house?
A: Around 5-10 minutes per layer, with 150 layers typically needed for a standard 9-foot wall height.

Q: When is the printed wall strong enough?
A: After the final layer is set, a 2 week period allows concrete to reach maximal strength before adding heavy loads like a roof.

Q: Why are 3D printed homes energy efficient?
A: The double-wall design creates a thermally broken structure, reducing heating and cooling costs.