Apis Cor is an early stakeholder/developer in the infant industry of 3D construction printers.
Founded by Russian-born Nikita Cheniuntai, but now based in Boston, MA, the company has recently completed a flagship project in Dubai.
Partnered by the Dubai Municipality and standing at 9.5 meters tall, with a footprint area of 640 square meters, this is the largest 3D printed building to date built directly on-site.
Astonishingly, just one mobilised printer and three workmen were involved in producing the wall structures of the entire structure.
In the process of executing the project Apis Cor conducted extensive R&D for testing the equipment under harsh climatic conditions and developing the 3D printing material.
In fact, testing the equipment and materials, as well as obtaining planning permits based on local building codes, remains the main challenge of this fledgling technology.
What is 3D Printing Architecture?
A new technology, still in research and development stages, that allows the building of physical structures printed automatically by machine equipment with special printing ink and based on pre-designed architectural drawings. The technology vastly reduces turnaround time and costs while at the same time offering improved durability.
Dubai Project Breakdown:
• Structural calculations: by Moscow State University of Civil Construction. The modelling included: seismic actions, vertical action, floor masses and mass moments of inertia, structural model, modal analysis, accidental torsion effects, shear forces, displacements, damage limitations, internal forces.
• Foundation: conventional construction by General Contractor
• Walls: 3D printed by Apis Cor
• 3D Printing material: gypsum-based mixture developed by Apis Cor produced locally
• Reinforcement: 3D-printed formwork for columns manually filled with rebar and regular concrete.
• Slabs: Precast
• Roof, windows, insulation: conventional by General Contractor
“We are thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with Dubai Municipality. The project gave us unique knowledge and invaluable experience that will help us improve our technology and develop a new version of our 3D printer. The improved version will be more reliable and time efficient (twice as fast). Moreover, during the project we tested and improved our own-developed 3D mixture. This project is a huge step forward in the concrete 3D printing industry”Nikita Cheniuntai, Founder & CEO Apis Cor
Dubai has, of course, positioned itself as an early adopter of 3D printing technologies, having commissioned another building by Chinese based company, Winsun.
That said, the technology is still in its experimental stage, with scalability being elusive primarily due to teething problems with building codes.
The construction industry, says Cheniuntai, is quite conservative in its thinking and approach, but clearly, visionary developers with the capacity for funding trials will be the first disruptors and stand to revolutionise building as we know it – making a fortune in the process.
Apis Cor’s business model is based on developing printers (typically the size of a car) sufficiently in order to make them available for sale. Cheniuntai reckons this will happen as early as 2020, so long as partnering developers are prepared to work with the mother company to run tests and adjust/modify materials based on territory.
And while he would not commit to a specific cost of the printers, they are likely to be in the 6 figure range.
Meantime, Apis Cor is on track to develop public and residential projects in Florida (its partner there is a non-profit organisation focused on affordable housing), a project in Louisiana and another in California, all in the course of 2020.
The latter project is being developed jointly the Housing Trust Fund of Santa Barbara County. The collaboration will result in the first 3-D printed affordable home in California and will demonstrate that the new technology developed by Apis Cor has the potential to reduce the cost of producing affordable housing, using sustainable building materials.
Additionally, Apis Cor has won a NASA competition which positions it perfectly to partner scientific projects of global significance.