The field of construction is witnessing a transformative revolution with the integration of robotics, particularly through the implementation of 3D printing technology. The utilisation of robotic systems for 3D printing in construction offers numerous advantages, including increased efficiency, cost-effectiveness, sustainability, and design flexibility. The construction industry is experiencing a paradigm shift propelled by the convergence of robotics and advanced manufacturing techniques. Among the various technological breakthroughs, 3D printing has emerged as a disruptive force, challenging conventional construction methods and opening new frontiers for innovation.

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3D printed house TECLA – Eco-housing by WASP_ © WASP

Origins of 3D Printing in Construction 

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First 3D Printing experiment_ © David Tippold – Urschel Laboratories, Inc

The roots of robotics in construction, specifically within the realm of 3D printing, can be traced back to the advent of additive manufacturing technologies in the late 20th century. The early 1980s marked the emergence of the first 3D printing techniques, primarily developed for prototyping purposes in the manufacturing industry. However, it wasn’t until the 21st century that the construction sector began exploring the transformative potential of 3D printing. The integration of computer-aided design (CAD) and building information modeling (BIM) laid the groundwork for the application of 3D printing in architecture and construction. The intersection of digital design capabilities with advancements in materials technology became the catalyst for the development of large-scale 3D printing in construction.

Construction Processes followed for 3D Concrete Printing 

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3D Concrete Printer (3DCP) at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands_ © TUE

The evolution of 3D printing in construction experienced significant milestones, with the technology progressively shifting from experimental to practical applications. Early experiments involved small-scale models and prototypes, but as materials and printing techniques advanced, researchers and engineers envisioned the possibility of constructing entire buildings layer by layer. Notably, the emergence of the 3D Concrete Printer (3DCP) at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands marked a pivotal moment. This groundbreaking technology, with its adaptable resolution capabilities and impressive dimensions, showcased the potential for 3D printing to revolutionise on-site construction. The development of construction-specific 3D printers, such as the BOD2 printer by COBOD, demonstrated a commitment to addressing the unique challenges posed by large-scale construction, including the need for flexibility, material variety, and adherence to industry standards.

Prefabrication (Prefab) Method

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IIT Madras Startup Builds ‘India’s First’ 3D Printed House in Collaboration with Tvasta_ ©Tvasta Manufacturing

In the Prefabrication method, the construction process begins with meticulous design and planning. The design specifications of building components serve as the blueprint for programming the 3D printer, ensuring precise replication. Off-site printing involves deploying 3D concrete printers in controlled environments, creating individual components layer by layer. Once panels are printed and cured, transportation to the construction site occurs via trucks. On-site assembly utilises cranes or lifting equipment to hoist printed panels into position, seamlessly interconnecting prefabricated modules to form the building’s structure.

In a notable example of the Prefabrication method, Tvasta Manufacturing Solutions, a 2021 start-up founded by alumni of IIT Madras, achieved a milestone by constructing India’s first 3D-printed house. This single-storey dwelling spans 600 square feet and showcases the potential of indigenous concrete 3D printing technology. Collaborating with Habitat for Humanity’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, Tvasta Manufacturing Solutions employed a prefabrication approach. The house components were meticulously printed off-site using advanced 3D printing technology, adhering to the design specifications. Subsequently, these prefabricated parts were transported to the construction site and manually assembled, marking a significant advancement in the efficiency and quality of the construction process

Cast In-Situ Construction Method

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India’s inaugural 3D printed post office in Bengaluru_ © COBOD

In the Cast In-Situ Construction method, the construction site undergoes meticulous preparation to accommodate the 3D printer. Once positioned, the printer operates by depositing a specially formulated construction material layer by layer, typically concrete. The printer follows predefined paths to progressively build the structure. Notably, this method allows for real-time adaptation, enabling adjustments and modifications to the design during construction.

In 2023, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) collaborated to create India’s first-ever 3D printed post office, located in Bengaluru’s Cambridge Layout. Covering an area of 1,021 square feet, this innovative project employed the Cast In-Situ Construction method. The construction site underwent meticulous preparation, ensuring a stable base for the on-site 3D printer, a COBOD BOD2, to operate. The printer deposited a specially formulated construction material layer by layer, building the structure in real-time. This approach allowed for the construction team to make necessary adjustments and adaptations during the printing process

The BOD2 Printer by COBOD 

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COBOD’s BOD2 Construction 3D Printer_ ©COBOD

COBOD, short for ‘Construction of Buildings On Demand’, is at the forefront of revolutionising the construction industry through its innovative 3D printing technology. The BOD2 printer, a flagship product of COBOD, represents a groundbreaking shift in the way buildings are constructed. The BOD2 allows the operator to move a printhead that extrudes building material within three dimensions, utilising a gantry-style construction. This means that the printhead moves along the X-axis for width, the X-axis moves on the two Y-axes for length, and the entire X/Y-axes group moves up and down the four Z-columns for height. This gantry principle enables the printer to access any position within the printable area (PA), providing complete freedom of movement within the volume. The modular build of the BOD2 allows for configuration to each project’s unique size and shape, showcasing its versatility.

Cambridge Layout Post Office, Bengaluru

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Cambridge Layout Post Office, Bengaluru_ © COBOD

In 2023, Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) undertook a groundbreaking collaboration to realise India’s inaugural 3D printed post office. Nestled in the heart of Bengaluru’s Cambridge Layout, this 94.85m² architectural marvel is a testament to innovation, efficiency, and the limitless possibilities presented by 3D printing technology.

Construction Methodology

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3D Printed home under construction in Calverton, NY, USA _ © SQ4D

The construction employed the Cast In-Situ Construction method, utilising the state-of-the-art COBOD BOD2 3D printer. This automated printer operated in an open-to-sky environment, depositing a specially formulated construction material layer by layer. The unique approach allowed real-time adjustments, providing unparalleled flexibility and customization during the construction process

Area Preparation

Meticulous site preparation was undertaken to ensure a stable base for the 3D printer, employing a comprehensive process that included excavation, sand filling, and compaction. These initial steps were crucial in establishing a solid foundation that would support the innovative construction technology employed in the creation of India’s first 3D printed post office.

Printing Process

The 3D printing process was a groundbreaking aspect of the project, employing the COBOD BOD2 3D printer. The construction unfolded as the printer meticulously erected walls layer by layer, commencing from the plinth and progressing upwards. Vertical rebars were strategically placed, creating a framework for structural integrity, and cavities were filled with specially formulated concrete. This method allowed for real-time adjustments, ensuring precision and adaptability during the construction process.

Roof Construction

The roof construction involved the strategic erection of a precast roof, followed by the application of screed concrete over the slab. This meticulous approach was designed to maintain necessary slopes for rainwater drainage, addressing both functional and aesthetic considerations in the overall design of the 3D printed post office.

Finishing Touches

The final stages of construction focused on enhancing both the functionality and aesthetics of the 3D printed post office. This encompassed the installation of granite flooring, plastering, and meticulous finishing of the 3D printed walls. Notably, electrical conduits and back boxes were seamlessly integrated into the structure during this phase, underscoring the comprehensive approach to the project’s design and construction.

Entrance Features

Adding both functional and aesthetic elements to the design, the entrance features were carefully considered. A rolling shutter was fixed on the precast beam, offering security and practicality. Additionally, a glass canopy was erected at the entrance, not only providing shelter but also contributing to the overall visual appeal of the post office. These entrance features showcased the versatility of the 3D printing process in incorporating diverse elements into the structure, creating a harmonious blend of form and function.

The Way Ahead


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Power2Build’s first 3D printed house_ © Power2Build

In conclusion, the fusion of robotics and 3D printing technology has ushered in a transformative era for the construction industry, challenging age-old norms and redefining the boundaries of architectural innovation. The evolution from early attempts at automation to the current state of 3D printing in construction showcases a remarkable journey marked by technological breakthroughs, experimentation, and real-world applications. The COBOD BOD 2 printer, with its prowess in extruding intricate structures, stands as a symbol of the potential that 3D printing holds for reshaping our built environment.


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