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Can this startup 3D-print a home in 30 hours?

S-Squared wants its Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS) to revolutionize homebuilding

Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS), a 3D-printing rig designed by S-Squared Construction that extrudes concrete to construct homes.
All photos courtesy S-Squared

A group of friends on the south shore of Long Island, New York, working under the name S-Squared, think they can revolutionize the way that homes are built, using a self-made 3D printing rig that they claim can lay down a home in a little more than 30 hours.

“This will be the first time a real house is going to be built with 3D printing,” says Bob Smith, an S-Squared co-founder. “Everyone else has put up sheds.”

In March, S-Squared plans to erect a demonstration home on the ground of Suffolk Cement, in nearby Calverton. Using their proprietary Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS), a 3D-printing rig that extrudes concrete to construct homes, commercial buildings, and even bridges, the company plans to construct a 1,490-square-foot, two-bedroom home later this year and obtain a certificate of occupancy.

The promised sale price—under $200,000, due to the reduction in manpower and labor costs—would be a game-changer for an expensive market such as Long Island. It would also be a new entry into the wide field of firms seeking to perfect and commercialize the process of mass-producing homes using 3D printing. At a time when venture capital-backed constructions startups raised more than a billion dollars last year in a race to make the building industry more efficient, a small, mostly self-funded startup from Long Island with 13 employees stands out.

“We are looking to be a disruptor,” says Smith. “But we’re not the class clowns. We’re just the ones who would keep asking the teacher, ‘why does it have to be that way?’”

Bob Smith, a co-founder of S-Squared, in front of the ARCS machine.

S-Squared originated four years ago when a group of friends in the town of Patchogue became frustrated with the restrictions and regulations around building. Tired of the standard litany of delays and permitting, they joked with an inspector that they would build a machine that builds homes, just tell us what can get approved and it’ll spit it out.

The friends pooled their resources and savings to develop their own 3D-printing technology, with Mario Szczepanski, an engineer, and Bob Smith, the former owner of an auto body store, designing their own versions of popular machines made by firms like Makerbot. After their first attempt at a printer that could create large-scale structures, the AFP (“awesome f*cking printer”) worked, and they decided to scale up. Smith says the current iteration of the ARC machine, which has an auger to allow for more custom designs, uses fiber mesh instead of rebar, meaning nobody needs to be onsite to add materials to the machine-laid concrete walls.

Other companies have printed homes and structures, including Apis, a Russian firm that printed a 400-square-foot tiny home last year that cost just over $10,000, as well as Tennessee-based Branch Technology. But none of the completed models have built full-size homes in the U.S. approved for occupancy.

Smith says the group isn’t your typical collection of innovators or entrepreneurs. Nobody is a career inventor, they’re simply trying to make a long, painful process easier and more affordable.

“Evolution in the industry is happening,” says Smith.