Stone Spray builds architecture from the ground up ... literally


August 8, 2012

The Stone Spray works much like a 3D printer, since it follows a 3D design from a computer and creates objects by layering material

The Stone Spray works much like a 3D printer, since it follows a 3D design from a computer and creates objects by layering material

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As useful as 3D printers are becoming in industrial design, they still aren't exactly eco-friendly and are still mostly limited to small scale objects. You couldn't really use one to print a building just yet, but a group of architects may have taken a step in the right direction with a new machine called the Stone Spray. Using natural soil and sand, the Stone Spray can construct intricate solid structures at almost any location, even on vertical surfaces.

The device was developed by architects Petr Novikov, Inder Shergill, and Anna Kulik as a research project to experiment with applying the concepts of digital manufacturing to construction work. The Stone Spray works much like a 3D printer, since it follows a 3D design from a computer and creates objects by layering material. It's main distinction though is that instead of using a synthetic material like plastic, the machine uses natural soil or sand mixed with a solidifying agent. Living up to it's name, the Stone Spray's mechanical arm literally sprays the concoction from a nozzle to slowly build scaled down towers and arches. Once it's dried, the resulting creation resembles a chunk of corral but is as solid as concrete.

Aside from the material it uses, the Stone Spray also stands out for its ability to create forms that most other 3D printers cannot. The majority of 3D printers can only build upwards, as layers of material are stacked on top of each other. The Stone Spray on the other hand can build in almost any direction, creating multi-directional arcs and even constructing outward from a vertical surface. Certain designs aren't solid enough to stand on their own during production, but these can still be made around a wire framework.

For now, the Stone Spray is limited to smaller designs, since the process for making and drying the structures can take several hours. With further development, the group behind the project envisions full-sized, usable structures (even bridges) constructed from scratch using materials from the local environment. As a bonus, the machine already requires very little energy to operate and could be run with solar power, making it even more eco-friendly. If this idea were expanded much more, constructing a building in the future could be as simple as having an architect upload a design to a machine for building.

Check out the video below to see how the Stone Spray can build a simple tower out of sand on the beach.

Source: Stone Spray

About the Author
Jonathan Fincher Jonathan grew up in Norway, China, and Trinidad before graduating film school and becoming an online writer covering green technology, history and design, as well as contributing to video game news sites like Filefront and 1Up. He currently resides in Texas, where his passions include video games, comics, and boring people who don't want to talk about either of those things. All articles by Jonathan Fincher

If I build a bridge with it in Italy will people still be able to drive cars over it in 2000 years.


I think there is prior art for "concrete." Also for 3d printing a building using concrete.

Jon A.

Nice - only lots of trimming and adjustment needed :)


Interesting! Rammed Earth goes 21 century!

I have always been fascinated by the idea of "rammed earth" dwellings. There may be some tech here that takes that historical building process up another level.

1) you may be able to simply spray up a wall form, instead of using plywood, which is the most wasteful process in classical rammed earth building.

2) the binders used in this process may obviate the need for a packing ram.

3) the porosity of the resulting coral like material may have a higher R factor then packed soil because of the entrained air.

4) The coral like texture could lend architectural or decorative appeal, and colorants could be added to the form or outer layer for additional artistic effects.

Bob Ehresman

humans may soon understand how the ancients built. I recall seeing an ancient drawing of someone with a hose. This is a possible breakthru in sustainable buildings.

Stewart Mitchell

Well the idea is cool but the fidelity of the part leaves alot to be desired. I like the flexability to come at the part from all angles though. Let's see them develope the process and if they can improve the resolution then they might have a workable process. It will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere.

The new binder may be the best part. There are people with 3D printers that spray a cement concoction with the unit mounted on rails so that it moves along and builds the base, floor and walls of a dwelling. Ultimately this sort of thing may be best used for very large structures. For building normal size homes it strikes me as over kill. There is a concrete-canvas system that can create a dwelling rather quickly and with great ease. There are also systems for spraying various products that can build strong and well insulated dwellings very quickly. But a new binder that works as well as cement is something that might change the world. Jim Sadler

Would be interesting to use in non-earthquake prone third-world areas for inexpensive buildings...

Matt Rings

Amazing - well done !!!

Tommie le Roux

send it to the moon

Artisteroi Rlsh Gadgeteer

Very cool. I own a furniture manufacturing company. What are the possibilities of using sawdust instead of sand to build frames for chairs? Let me know if you need a real world laboratory!


If you use a UV catalyst, you wouldn't need to wait for it to "dry". Just shine UV light on it


So simple, it could be useful in building emergency flood walls too with the right material. well done you guys nice work !

Jay Finke

It'd make a heck of a artificial coral reef builder that could be a start that marine life could build on. Build pieces on land, and then drop them in the ocean a few hundred yards off the beach... repeat.

Roderic Langer

How well would ground up tires work in this system.

William Wiley Bolton

I like the old turntable used for rotation. You can see the familiar strobe marks on it and the holes for changing the belts. So they have more uses than just rap music. :-)


Hi, interesting development although it sounds fairly similar to that developed by Enrico Dini, with his making a marble like material instead. This area becomes even more fascinating when you look at developments in topology optimisation which in simple terms shapes the object by the forces it has to bear. The key benefits to advances in this technology is material reduction which has shown to be as high as 60%. In building construction this benefit is multiplied further by reducing the material required to support the static/self mass of the construction.


Cold shower a bit: "solidifying agent" can be very expensive like epoxy resin, &not eco-friendly. Sand as main stuff - yes, but "natural soil" is a problem in concrete as well in this "concoction" (too much organic carrion matter with no adhesion nor strength). Talking monolithic concrete, add digital control to concrete pump and you have it, providing solution for layers fast solidification.

Mike Akulov

@Roderic - awesome idea! Materials which set underwater do already exist you know (eg: concrete), and most reefs are close enough to a shoreline, so in theory - an entire reef could be constructed by an underwater robot feed from shore by just a few hoses.


It'd be more interesting if it made something that looked useful instead of things that look like termite mounds.

Gregg Eshelman

@Gregg Eshelman: I was going to say something similar. This isn't very aesthetically pleasing as it stands at the moment. Humans DO care how things look, it's just in our natures. Of course, there are times when we can't worry about 'form over function', for instance if it WERE used to build low-cost housing in 3rd world countries. This process, as it stands is STILL more aesthetically pleasing than the shacks they cobble together using garbage. However, for most of us, we would want to be able to build things more pleasing to the eye.


@Gregg and Carolinade:

Initially, I agreed with you, but when I thought about the intricacy of their termite mounds, I suddenly realized that their building was vastly more intricate and sophisticated than a simple geometric design. It made me realize that if they can build an insect-type structure, how easy it would be for them to build walls.

Also, Mike is right about the expense of "eco friendly" is something to consider as well as getting rid of the organic matter.


Beach sand is not a good building material, unfortunately. It is not used in concrete, or when it has been it has led to something called spalling, where concrete breaks off under compressive stress, as beach sand has dramatically lower strength compared to rock-sands typically used in concrete.


Hmm. Right now a person can construct an energy-efficient adobe home by hand - with sand, clay, silt and water - without using a laptop, robotic device and special solidifying agent.

As of now, this interesting device seems capable of nothing more than creating art with sand. Perhaps I lack imagination.

Laura Ward

Yes, some folks lack imagination. I can imagine a robotic foundation printer that prints out the concrete foundation of homes, perfectly square and level, everytime. As someone who's been involved a little bit in home construction I can tell you, a perfect foundation goes a very long way to a well built home.


We seem to be forgetting the D-Shape, which is a real 3D printer that can create buildings. Gizmag has done a couple of pieces on it over the last couple of years.

Not only is it faster than traditional building techniques, but it would allow one single person to put up a building, and allow for much, much more creative shapes than traditional building techniques.

Dave Andrews
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