Collaborative partnership brings Ohio’s first construction 3D printer to CDME

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3d printer inside barn
COBOD International’s BOD2 printer

The Ohio State University’s Center for Design and Manufacturing Excellence (CDME) is home to over a dozen 3D printers, but the latest arrival is the first of its kind.

Pantheon Innovative Builders LLC delivered COBOD International’s BOD2 printer—the world’s most widely used 3D construction printer—to Ohio State on January 6. CDME is collaborating with Pantheon to accelerate growth of the construction 3D printing industry. This research partnership will include testing, print demonstrations, experimental learning for students and the creation of a workforce development training curriculum.

The large-scale concrete construction printer is the first in Ohio and one of fewer than 10 at universities worldwide.

"Construction 3D printing is a new and exciting technology that is revolutionizing the way civil structures are designed and manufactured," said Ben DiMarco, additive manufacturing technologist at CDME. "We knew we needed to bring this unique capability to our lab at CDME to continue to introduce new technology with our students and push the boundaries of additive manufacturing in the United States."

The BOD2 prints residential and commercial structures with concrete and other material mixtures. COBOD’s team will also provide on-site support with machine startup, training and material development. The printer is located inside an arena on Ohio State’s Columbus Campus to accommodate the size of printed structures, which can have a build envelope up to 30 feet by 30 feet.

In central Ohio, rapidly rising home prices and rents affect people at multiple income levels, from individuals and families earning median incomes to those with the fewest resources. The slow pace of production is one significant source of the crisis. Central Ohio produces only about 8,000 new housing units annually—a 43% shortfall, according to the Building Industry Association of Central Ohio. Their analysis suggests the region needs to ramp up production to 14,000 units per year simply to accommodate projected population growth.

2 people watching 3d printer
Two engineers monitor the COBOD International BOD2 printer during a demonstration.

“Using 3D printing to construct homes is a game-changer for the housing crisis and the construction industry at large,” said Philip Knudsen, chief marketing officer at COBOD International. “The technology is still at early stages, but thanks to our open-source strategy we welcome suppliers, customers and academic institutions to co-develop and advance the technology even further.”

Additive manufacturing (AM)—or 3D printing—for construction has advantages over other building methods. The process is largely automated, meaning housing units can be finished quicker with fewer workers on site. Contrasting with current construction methods, 3D printing is time efficient, reducing construction time to several days to complete a wall system. Automating the process also increases the safety of workers and reduces material waste. However, addressing the variety of challenges associated with concrete 3D printing will require an integrated team of additive manufacturing experts from CDME, construction materials experts, civil and structural engineers, architects and construction firms.

To accommodate the specific needs of 3D-printed construction, CDME and Ohio State has built of team of experts from multiple departments at the university. Experts from the Department of Civil, Environmental and Geodetic Engineering, Knowlton School, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering (FABE), and CDME are working together to ensure the technology and materials are of the highest quality, and that the structures meet the needs and interests of the community they are being deployed in.

“Ohio State provides a unique environment in which the wide array of partners and experts necessary to rapidly improve and accelerate deployment of the 3D-printed concrete technology to provide the greatest benefit to our communities can come together in one place,” said Lisa Burris, assistant professor of civil, environmental and geodetic engineering at Ohio State.

Burris and her team of researchers will be conducting research centered around the 3D-printed construction material and performance in various environments.

group of 6 people doing OHIO with their arms next to pieces of printer
Pantheon and CDME teams pose with construction 3D printer after it was delivered

Pantheon Innovative Builders LLC is a Youngstown-based additive manufacturing construction company. They are working with CDME and COBOD to impact Ohio’s affordable housing portfolio as well as research other sustainable construction solutions. The partnership with CDME will also give Pantheon the opportunity to provide industry-leading research to building inspectors, trade unions and high schools across Ohio.

The opportunity to bring the BOD2 to campus would not be possible without Pantheon’s support and collaboration. Pantheon is making strides to be the leading innovative construction printing company in the Midwest and eventually in the United States. Pantheon partnered with CDME to jump-start their research capabilities and technology adoption because of CDME’s reputation as a leader in AM research and development.

‘’We are extremely excited for the opportunity to work with two amazing organizations like CDME and COBOD. Both continue to innovate the AM industry worldwide,” said Ryan Kelly, CEO of Pantheon Innovative Builders. “This partnership will help us create a model to reimagine, retrain and recruit the future construction workforce. We believe that is essential to Ohio’s growing housing portfolio and also further establishing Ohio as the home of innovation in the United States.”

The addition of concrete construction printing expands CDME’s already impressive additive manufacturing capabilities. CDME’s AM Lab houses more than $8 million in additive manufacturing equipment, including industrial 3D printers capable of processing metals, polymers, composites, biomaterials and ceramics.

Creating a successful 3D concrete printing presence in Ohio will require CDME to further extend its boundaries—incorporating construction industry partners and Ohio State experts in the areas of construction materials and structural engineering, architecture and community planning. These partnerships will also provide unique opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to collaborate with experts outside their own disciplines and learn the value of working in teams with diverse backgrounds.

3D printed house
House printed by BOD2 in Nairobi, Kenya

“CDME’s goal is to keep students at the center of a growing ecosystem of partners,” said DiMarco. “To realize that goal, the partnership between COBOD, Pantheon and CDME provides students a unique, experiential learning opportunity to grow the workforce in this area. Undergraduate students will get hands-on experience with a full-scale construction 3D printer and software before they go into industrial practice.” 

CDME works with companies and researchers to translate new technologies into market-ready products. These projects give student employees real, hands-on experience integrating new technology, while providing customers the workforce advantage necessary to compete in the global marketplace. CDME works with companies across a variety of industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical, energy, and tooling, to provide design, engineering, prototyping and product enhancement utilizing the additive manufacturing laboratory.

DiMarco added that this partnership will unlock research opportunities at the intersection of civil engineering, manufacturing, artificial intelligence, materials science, architecture, urban planning and industrial design.

For more information about construction 3D printing or to get involved, contact CDME’s Ben DiMarco at dimarco.24@osu.edu.

Categories: ResearchEquipment