Northwestern Students Aided by ‘Cor’ of 3D Printing Masters

What are The Realities of 3D Printing for the built environment? Having emerged as a $2.75-billion industry last year, 3D printing has become the subject of considerable hype, some of which is certainly justified. But to what degree?

How viable is this technology for construction, one of our most robust industries? For answers to these crucial questions, BuiltWorlds has reached out to several members of our next generation. In a joint venture with Northwestern University’s School of Mechanical Engineering in Evanston IL, we developed a crash course dedicated to overcoming two primary challenges confronting the role of 3D printing in the built environment: methodology and structural integrity.

As you’ll see, we’ve been following a group of six students as they tackle varying aspects of these issues. On March 30, the team… our team… will report its progress at our headline event, The Realities of 3D Printing. In show-and-tell fashion, they’ll demonstrate the degree to which 3D-printed construction is suited for smaller-scale ventures. Along with a panel of industry experts, we’ll unravel the seemingly endless spools of filament surrounding present and future uses for 3D printing.

Between now and the end of March, our team from the capstone course ME398 will document its progress with weekly entries posted right here on the BW website! While the students apply their classroom experience and lessons learned from our partners, Moscow-based mobile 3D supplier Apis Cor, and MasterGraphics of Madison, WI, you’ll observe first-hand the trajectory of their scholastic journey.

So, without further ado, we now turn this over to our student partners to introduce themselves:


BuiltWorldsNU is now in our fifth week of working with BuiltWorlds to develop a prototype of concrete printer and an educational tool to cover the topic of additive manufacturing and, as they say, “time flies when you’re building a concrete printer”.

The team, (Annie Kopp, Brendan O’Connell, Connie Gu, Jason Vignolo, Patrick Peng, and Tim Stead) is getting to know each other so well that Annie didn’t even have to look at GroupMe to spell our names. Speaking of GroupMe, we all wake up to at least one message from someone on the team every morning. It’s cute. It’s Connie.

This past week we were finally able to pin down our mission statement which is “to design an educational demonstration to create a basic understanding of how concrete-based additive manufacturing works, as well as how concrete-based additive manufacturing differs from traditional construction methods in its material properties, ability to create unconventional shapes, fabrication location, subsystems installation, speed, cost, waste materials, and repeatability, and flexibility. Our educational demonstration will include a visual component, physical concrete samples, and a printer demonstration. These components will serve to bridge the understanding gap between additive manufacturing and the construction industry.” 

Phew! If you’re still with us, we built a few mockups this week and presented them to our class, our professors, Jed and Eliot. Brendan didn’t know if a sweater counted as “business casual”, and Annie invented a word or two during the presentation. Other than that, we did pretty well. Soon to come is revising our current documentation, building more mockups, and possibly an all-nighter. Time will tell!



Until next week…

To contact the author, write to or find him on Twitter @toddstolarski.