Jan 7, 2015 | By Alec

Could we all be living in 3D printed homes in the near future? Its advantages are evident – lower production costs, more design freedom and less pollution. Only the practical, applied side of the equation is lagging somewhat behind, in part due to the sheer scale of necessary investments.

And while there are currently several on-going 3D printed construction programmes in existence, these are often crazily expensive, slow, and nowhere near commercial deployment. Just last week we reported on a Slovenian company who announced to be willing to sell giant concrete 3D printers to commercial construction businesses, but as far we know this hasn't yet resulted in commercial building project.

Meanwhile, another challenger has appeared and one who looks to have all the necessary papers to be successful. Not only has CyBe Additive Industries been prototyping an interesting 3D printer (a robotic arm, rather than a bulky and unwieldy XYZ setup), they have also developed a special type of 'filament' (CyBe mortar) that could prove to be perfect for 3D printing houses and other concrete structures. The Dutch company, that was founded in 2013 and has offices in Amsterdam, Eindhoven and Oss, is therefore definitely one to keep an eye on.

As the company's founder and owner Berry Hendriks explained to 3ders.org, their whole purpose has always been to solve all the common challenges faced by the concept of industrial 3D printing, and change construction as we know it. 'Our team comes from the construction industry, automation and mechanical engineering. When I saw the presentation of Behrokh Khoshnevis on TEDx I thought by myself that it shouldn't be hard to develop such a 3Dprinter. The high-tech construction method has multiple benefits compared to Midtech and Lowtech construction methods.'

The young engineer, who graduated from the Technical University in Eindhoven a few years ago, therefore set out to construct his own 3D printer, the ProTo R 3DP, from scratch through continuous experimentation. 'For development of 3DP's we use our own development model that focusses on continuous feedback and redevelopment. The difficult part was to tune the hardware to the curing process of the concrete and to get to grips with all the practical factors which occur during the 3D printing of concrete. We've preformed multiple experiments which continued to influence our machine's device.'

As it stands, the ProTo R 3DP is essentially a robotic arm with a very respectable range of 3.15 meters in all directions. It is capable of extruding the company's unique cement at a speed of 175 mm per second while using a print head of 30mm x 30mm (resulting in layers of 30mm), but multiple print heads can be attached which result in different extrusion speeds (from 10 mm up to 4000 mm a second) and layer thickness. They are currently also working on a separate print head that could print concrete layers of just 5 mm in size.

But especially interesting is their CyBe mortar, which they've developed in collaboration with an external partner. And while Berry couldn't reveal anything about the composition of his special material, he did tell us about what it does. And that was certainly impressive; his special mortar can form bearable structures within several minutes (thus promising to speed up building considerably), while completing the hydration process within 24 hours. Meanwhile, working with this type of mortar produces 32% less co2 (making it more environmentally friendly) compared to regular concrete, while it is completely reusable and thus greatly cuts down on waste and pollution.

All this makes CyBe mortar a very promising 'ink' that could be revolutionizing the construction industry. Below you can see a video of this material (and the ProTo R 3DP printer) being used to construct a concrete wall. The dimensions of the wall are 3.800mm x 400mm x 1.230mm (XYZ), which was completed at a speed of 160 mm per second with a layer thickness of 30 mm. The entire structure was completed in just half an hour, and bearable soon afterwards.

While CyBe is thus still in the prototyping and development phase, I feel that it is my privilege as reporter to predict that the company's future is looking bright. In the following months their printer and mortar will be submitted to a series of tests and a research program by seven of their partners and researchers from the University of Eindhoven, where their device's sustainability will be studied. They are also exploring plans to construct a second type of printer, the CyBe No. 1 3DP, a module mobile 3D printer which would feature a gantry structure that can construct onsite. However, they are still in the process of finding investors to realize this project.

While there are currently no plans to commercialize the actual 3D printer, Berry revealed that they are currently looking into options to commercially produce specific products, such as sewer pits and other structures that could greatly benefit from their ability to create complex and environmentally-friendlier concrete structures. 'At this moment we want to utilize the CyBe No. 1 3DP ourselves by producing on site.' But whatever they choose to do, CyBe Additive Industries is obviously a 3D printing business to keep an eye on.


Posted in 3D Printers


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