For a long time I’ve wondered why Elon never participated in 3D printed construction. As such a big fan of automation I would think he would have at least mentioned it once or twice but it turns out his company SpaceX has been experimenting with this technology more than the public was aware (until now). This is certainly the biggest story I have had the pleasure of breaking, I am honored that one of my YouTube subscribers anonymously contacted me and told me how to find the project.
When I heard about this project I booked a flight to Brownsville and went directly to SpaceX. I was able to do this because of all the support I get from the Virtual Village members. The Virtual Village has over 20 digital tours in the MetaVerse of 3D printed buildings and facilities totaling over 20,000 sq ft of virtually walkable space. Use code “EARLYBIRD” for 15% off for the next 20 members!
The construction completed by SpaceX is an addition to “The Hub” which is a small gathering space between the two launch pads on south padre island. Being an addition, this project did not require its own electrical/plumbing so it was pretty much just a simple print. The quality of the printed lines is quite high with no visible cracking. No visible cracks is a rarity in this space, it is possible that they concealed non structural aesthetic cracks but I saw no evidence of it. An Apis Cor printer was used to complete this project but I am unsure of the terms of their agreement. Currently Apis Cor uses a rental business model where customers must commit to a 1 year agreement. This project with SpaceX may have been a rental or may have just been something Apis was contracted to build as a one off and I am leaning towards the later because I didn’t see the printer there anymore and it was still actively under construction.
It is validating to see SpaceX experimenting with 3D printed concrete technology and it will be much more validating if they continue to do so. Hopefully I will be able to return to this site and do an interview with a SpaceX team member on why they decided to 3D print this addition to their Hub building. I personally feel that it will be more practical to go underground on mars in order to avoid the harmful radiation but if SpaceX is getting involved there must be something to it. Remember Elon also has the Boring Company which is the fastest tunnel digging machine in the world, I wonder if one of those things would fit in a falcon heavy rocket?
I will certainly make Brownsville one of my regular stops when I am in Texas, even if they don’t print any more buildings its so cool seeing the space ships and I’ve recently learned that SpaceX implements 3D printed metal for parts of the rocket engines. Printing allows more dynamic design possibilities because you can achieve structures within hollow sections that cannot be injection moulded due to their complexity. If I could ever get permission to see that process I would be super eager to make a video on it! Until then I will watch from afar, the SpaceX employee who very kindly asked me to leave the private property was too nice of a guy for me to disobey his request for me not to trespass. Hopefully I can do this again but through the proper routes in the future but I must admit I do enjoy the adventure!
Back in the day when I started my channel 2 years ago I was much more brash and kind of reckless, I trespassed a lot and refused to remove multiple videos but now that I have been at it for longer I am learning that it is more important to preserve relationships with innovative companies rather than trying to meddle in their private actives against their wishes. More and more information about construction automation is becoming available to the public as new stakeholders with a wide variety of motivations enter the market. Specifically the Habitat for Humanity projects will probably be the most transparent 3DCP project to date but we will have to wait until they are complete to get the information on what it cost to complete that project. The one in Arizona will be particularly illuminating because 3 stickbuilt homes of the same size are built right next door so it will be the first truly valid cost comparison.
P.S. Hey Elon! I’ve seen almost every concrete printer company just reach out if you’d ever like to chat! I’m always happy to talk to people printing buildings. (For those who haven’t yet I charge a fee.)