Modern magic: World's first 3D-printed castle

A man in Minnesota built a 3D printer and used it to make a beautiful castle rise from the earth layer by layer. There's no dragon -- yet.

Michael Franco
Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
3 min read

This castle was built with magic -- the technological kind. Andrey Rudenko

A castle materializes out of thin air without hundreds of stone chiselers putting in decades of hard labor to make it happen. Is it the plot of a new Disney film?

Nope. It's what happened recently in Minnesota -- and the wizard who whipped up this magic castle was Andrey Rudenko, a contractor with a background in engineering.

Instead of using spells and potion to bring his castle into this world, Rudenko used something much more concrete. In fact, he actually used concrete extruded through a 3D printer he designed himself. Getting that concrete to the right consistency to be fed through the machine was quite a challenge Rudenko told CNET. "Although cement has existed for thousands of years," he said, "it hasn't been common to use cement mixes for low-speed precise extrusion. It took a lot of research and experimenting to come up with the proper mix. So the recipe is my own with common materials and some additives."

Rudenko's castle isn't quite big enough to house evil queens or hold royal balls, but the structure is quite impressive, measuring 10 feet by 16 feet with a height of 12 feet -- just think of the coolest castle playhouse you've ever seen. Then again, Rudenko's goal in creating the castle wasn't to make a livable structure. It was to act as a sort of proof-of-concept for the 3D printer and concrete extruding process he'd invented, so that he could move on to his real goal: printing an entire 3D house.

"A new era of architecture is inevitable, and I'm excited to see where the next few years will lead in terms of construction and design," Rudenko says on his website. "I have previously been sure I could print homes, but having finished the castle, I now have proof that the technology is ready."

According to the site, Rudenko is currently refining his printer so that it will be up to the task. The current machine, which according to 3Dprint.com (which first reported Rudenko's plans back in April), is based on the RepRap project, an open-source 3D printer that, once made, can be modified extensively and even be used to reproduce itself. Rudenko says that the printer can pump out layers that are 10 millimeters in height by 30 millimeters in width but that "countless other options are available with just the click of a button."

A closeup of the walls of the castle, built by layering beads of concrete atop each other. Andrey Rudenko
Because the only problems Rudenko saw in constructing his house were when he had to start and stop the printer, 3Dprint.com says, he is looking to build his house without stopping, by running the machine 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until the project is done.

Rudenko's original idea was to build the house in Minnesota, but because he's eager to start, he's afraid the cold autumn and winter in that part of the country won't be conducive to the manufacturing process. Instead, he's asking for investors in a warmer climate -- and somewhere such a structure could get the proper permits -- to email him about their interest.

While we've seen another 3D-printed house project this year, this one differs in that the printer produces the structure in one piece, rather than making blocks, which then need to be assembled into a house.

We think there's just one more think Rudenko's castle needs before he moves on to the house project. This super-cool 3D dragon. Because, after all, if a 3D-printed dragon can't live in a 3D-printed castle, then where can it live?