Alabama’s first 3D-Printed Concrete Building, right here in Troy

Published 10:55 am Thursday, November 30, 2023

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A unique new Troy business, Build Additive LLC, has created an innovative way to 3D print concrete and as a result, has manufactured the first 3D-printed concrete building in Alabama.

Frank Marquette is no stranger to innovation, and the former Troy University professor of practice is bringing a brand new, state of the art way of manufacturing homes that could help revolutionize manufacturing and construction in the United States.

Less than six months ago, the building that now houses Build Additive in Troy was completely empty. Now, a huge 3D concrete printing machine resides there pumping out unique shapes and designs for buildings.

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Marquette started his career as a mason in Arizona and eventually found his way to New Zealand, where he launched a company utilizing concrete for creative construction applications and then developed electromechanical engineering solutions including automatic guided vehicles. This led to him working on numerous television and movie productions, including “The Lord of the Rings”, and creating autonomous transportation systems for amusement park rides and industrial material handling applications.

Marquette designed the Warriors Unearthed Exhibit at the International Arts Center on the campus of Troy University. He also assisted in the installation in the Terracotta Warriors in Janice Hawkins Cultural Arts Park.

After returning to America, Marquette was eventually recruited by Troy University, where he taught design and set construction and created the first Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing) program and degree in the country. Many of Marquette’s former students have gone on to successful careers.

“The students I had the privilege of teaching at Troy University, when they graduated with the 3D Printing minor, were getting jobs earning $70,000 to $100,000 a year day one,” Marquette emphasized. “The idea is you take the next generation and intersect them with modern technologies, the excitement of robotics and material science skills that make up this advanced manufacturing sector.

“One (my former students) is working for a company making 3D printers for NASA. He’s writing the firmware for printers that’s actually solving challenges of how to 3D print in space in zero gravity. Another one works for one of the larges 3D concrete supply companies in the world as their R&D lead. Another graduate is working in the medical industry, where she’s actually 3D printing parts to go into people’s bodies mid-surgery. This is some high-tech stuff, and all those people came out of Troy University.”

Marquette, who still has a strong relationship with Troy University, returned to the City of Troy, which he fell in love with, this summer and eventually founded Build Additive alongside co-founder Pierre Viuad-Murat.

Viudad-Murat, who has sales management experience internationally, is also the founder of Qualified3D, a company that assists clients with 3D printing services, industrial equipment sales and additive manufacturing software with a focus on workflow automation.

“We decided, why not Troy?,” Marquette recalled. “The cost of setting up a business here is relatively inexpensive, the business community is pro manufacturing, and I feel like we could do a lot more manufacturing in Troy”.

Build Additive uses a special kind of mortar that Marquette called “high performance.”

“My understanding of material sciences has really helped our business, the mortar we print these walls out of is very high-spec,” he said. “It’s not like the ordinary cement you’d make a driveway from; it’s used for things like repairing airport runways in real-time. We started printing with that material and quickly had extraordinary results.”

Marquette and Build Additive hope to be able to provide 3D concrete printing systems for not only major universities and businesses, but to smaller businesses as well. The ultimate goal though is much loftier.

“One of our goals is to help make permanent housing more affordable,” Marquette emphasized. “We want to see families owning their homes and the land their homes are on. We can manufacture 3D printed concrete walls to build fixed material homes that are assets and enrich people’s lives.”

Marquette and 3DCP Systems Engineer David Summerlin’s work (a current Troy Electronic Engineering Major and 3D Printing program grad) over the past five months came to fruition earlier this month as their 3D printed pieces were put together at the Troy-Pike Center for Technology, constructing the walls of a new innovative learning space for the students. The entire building itself was manufactured in less than a week.

“Five and a half months ago this building we’re currently working out of was empty, this machine wasn’t here,” Marquette said as he pointed over to the giant 3D printer. “It was just David and I here. The development of the machine, the software and firmware have all been custom created. We’re basically offering robotic manufacturing here in Troy. We’re using automated equipment to produce concrete products, which is exciting.”

With their business up and rolling, Build Additive wanted to find the perfect project to demonstrate their plan.

“We wanted to put up a building to demonstrate our capabilities,” Marquette said. “So, we thought about how big it would be – the scope of the project – and where it might be installed. At first, we were either going to put it on our property or maybe buy some land to install a demonstration model, we even looked at building a small home.”

With Marquette’s experience in education, he decided to speak with Troy-Pike Center for Technology (TPCT) Principal Jeremy Knox.

“I’ve known Jeremy for a while now and we discussed working together to put up the first 3D Printed building in Alabama right here (Troy-Pike Center for Technology),” he continued. “I asked if we could possibly make it into an educational space. He got with his people, and they all said the project sounded great. We decided to utilize an old slab that used to have a building on it, and everyone jumped into it at 90 miles-per-hour. Amazing team.”

Marquette said working with education for Build Additive’s first project was a no-brainer.

“I have an affinity and respect for education, I enjoyed my time at Troy University, so whenever there’s an opportunity to do a community or educational project, we’ll be interested in that.” Marquette said. “My partner and I want to be profitable and do well in business, and from the outset we decided it’s not all about money. We want to serve community. So, we love that our first project is community-based and supporting education.”

Knox said that the true benefit the building will offer to the TPCT campus isn’t easily quantifiable.

“When Frank asked if this project was something that the school would like to participate in, I was sold immediately,” Knox said. “The value that the space brings to campus is quantifiable in terms of aesthetics, proof of concept, hands-on learning during the building and finishing process, etc. However, where this partnership provides impacts that are not easily quantified is the capacity it has to show students the realm of possibilities in career and technical education are limitless.

“Students have the ability to witness firsthand that they can build anything that they put their minds to. With the growing need for manufacturing jobs in the region, and then national niche markets that exist in additive manufacturing, it is my home that our students utilize this resource and consider what a career in additive manufacturing may look like. Furthermore, if the ability to offer a program to students – such as additive manufacturing – arises, Troy-Pike Center for Technology would love to add it to our array of course offerings.”

Marquette, Summerlin and some members of the TPCT staff installed the walls for the building themselves, and students got in on the action by mixing and pouring concrete to fill the walls and provided welding skills for reinforcement elements. Now the construction students will put on the roof, windows, and other finishing touches.

“I believe the youth from the Southeast of this country, many who are raised in rural settings, make amazing engineers,” said Marquette. “They grow up all their lives fixing things. That problem-solving mindset is an inherent quality gained while growing up, incredibly valuable in today’s world. Give someone with that mindset high-tech tools and watch out. We saw this project as an opportunity to introduce more students – more young people here – to this advanced manufacturing technology.”

Build Additive is already preparing to build its first home in Luverne early next year, and Marquette said that they hope to work on further projects in the community going forward.

“We’re excited about this building technology and to be a part of the Troy community, we look forward to contributing,” said Marquette. “I think one important way is providing affordable permanent housing options to residents here.”

For more information on Build Additive, visit