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Yavapai College To Launch First In The Nation 3D Construction Program


Yavapai College this August will launch a program that teaches students about construction using 3D printer technology. The college says it is the first such program in the U-S, and that it could be key in improving the area’s affordable housing stock. 

KNAU’s Zac Ziegler spoke with Richard Hernandez, Director of Yavapai College’s Regional Economic Development Center about 3D printed homes and how the school will teach students the emerging technology.

Zac Ziegler: “What is 3D construction, and how does it work?”

Richard Hernandez: “It works very similar to the common 3D printer, desktop printers, that you see in the wild so to speak. The only difference is size and the product that it's squirting out of the nozzle. So a typical 3D printer that you’re probably familiar with spits out a plastic polymer. These machines print a concrete polymer.”

ZZ: “So you said this works with a concrete polymer. How do these materials differ in the final product?”

RH: “You traditionally think of framing or framed houses as 2 x 6 or 2 x 4 framing nailed together. But also, if you think about the Phoenix market, if you go there several homes there were built with brick. Brick is concrete, so brick construction has been around forever. We’re just using it in a new technology, a disruptive technology if you will, that allows us to print on the fly out of a machine.”

ZZ: “So this isn't components built in a factory. This is done with a machine that sits on the site of where the home will be, right?”

RH: “Absolutely. We will be acquiring here shortly by April two machines. One is large enough to print a 2,000-square-foot home. The other one is a lab model that students can learn and practice and develop skill set on in the classroom or the lab if you will.”

ZZ: “How does this differ from the school’s traditional construction program?”

RH: “We just see this as an extension of what we're already doing we want our students are now the Pike County here to have the opportunity to come to an institution of Higher Learning and learn how to use this technology learn how to take it from a desktop environment out to a real world construction environments we also have a very respected 3D program in place here so Mary and the two wasn't real difficult for us it's not a huge leap 

ZZ: “How does this improve on current home building techniques?”

RH: “Well, it’s absolutely cheaper. We have a little work to do yet in order to give you an exact number, but we estimate we can print a 2,000 square foot home, and I'm talking vertical walls, we can probably print a home in three to five days. So that's a substantial change from traditional framing construction.”

ZZ: “One of the biggest ways that a home can often be the most environmentally-friendly is to be well insulated and do not have high heating and cooling costs. How do these homes do as far as that?”

RH: “They’re concrete, and there's an air barrier in the middle of the two surfaces, the inside and the outside of the wall. That provides an air gap, which is insulation that rivals traditional and sometimes betters depending on how wide you make the gap, traditional R values and insulation. So they do very well.”

ZZ: “You said that you'd be able to print out a 2,000 square-foot home. What's construction cost on something like that?”

RH: “Well, like I said earlier, we are still in the process of developing curriculum for students and getting a grasp on some of those expenses and operational logistics and components of the 3D printing. So I don't have hard numbers for you now, but I can't tell you it's less than what we do in traditional construction.”

ZZ: “Richard Hernandez thank you very much for joining me today.”


RH: “You’re very welcome.”

**A point of disclosure, Yavapai College is an underwriter of Arizona Public Radio. 

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