A Finnish Startup Takes 3D Printing of Buildings to a New Level

A Finnish startup, FIMAtec, is launching its prototype 3D printer for constructing buildings. It is the first 3D printer in the world to produce exterior and interior walls, insulation, and reinforcement, all at the same time. The printed wall complies with Western building regulations.

“3D printing improves the cost-efficiency of construction, at the same time creating new architectural possibilities,” stated Risto Linturi, a Finnish futurologist and 3D printing visionary. He is one of the advisors to FIMAtec.

“I think that our technology has the best features for the development of construction,” stated Arto Koivuharju, the leading developer and founder of FIMAtec. He is especially proud that the top experts from Finland and abroad are taking part in the development.

Konecranes, a co-developer of the printer, has studied using an industrial crane as the skeleton for a 3D printer. “Precise, six-directional movement is our key know-how,” said Olli Kuosmanen, a general manager in the company.

Mikko Isotalo, the CEO of another development partner, Lujabetoni, is enthralled. “This is by far the most credible 3D printer we’ve seen so far anywhere in the world.”

“I thought that construction was a conservative industry, but during the last six months I’ve received many inquiries and positive feedback from companies, organizations, and individuals in the construction business,” claimed Koivuharju. “Many people are already aware of the precision of 3D printing, and with the right technology, the precision requirements of construction are not unreachable. This, however, calls for a combination of 3D printing and robotics.”

FIMAtec has already tried, with some success, to print wooden walls. In addition, it has tested the installation of electrical wiring between concrete cladding and insulation. In a video interview for Helsingin Sanomat newspaper, Koivuharju shows a sandwich concrete element that took three minutes to print. It has a decorative pattern on the surface, insulation and steel reinforcement. The printer does ten operations simultaneously.

hs-video-interview

FIMAtec is currently negotiating with international precast concrete production technology manufacturers to handle the production, sales, and maintenance of their products. Sika, a Swiss company, and Rejlers, a Nordic engineering firm, have already started collaborating with FIMAtec.

Koivuharju encourages companies interested in the new 3D printer to contact him. He anticipates that concrete panel production with the new technology will start by the end of 2016. It will take a few more years before whole buildings can be printed using the FIMAtec system.

Sources: The quotations are freely translated from the Finnish press release and the video image is captured from Helsingin Sanomat.