High Tech Frank

Scott and Laurie Elliott of Suntree view Frank, a 2,900-pound machine built by Apis Cor that prints 3D exterior and interior walls using extrusion. Company officials say Frank can generate walls on site quicker, cheaper and with less or no construction debris than using traditional construction methods. Scott Elliott is the chief financial officer. Frank was displayed at Apis Cor's showroom at The Avenue Viera.

Frank, Gary and Mary can build a home in 50 work hours, just adding water at the site. Space Coast business Apis Cor hopes its robotic system will revolutionize the way homes are built not only locally, but nationally, globally and eventually on the moon and Mars.

“It seems like science fiction, but it’s happening now,” said Trevor Ragno, the director of construction technology. He said an on-site proprietary robotics system prints 3-D walls with the electrical, plumbing and mechanical components installed.

“Our mission is to advance affordable and available housing. … Today, there’s a shortage of five million houses in the U.S.,” Apis Cor founder and CEO Anna Cheniuntai of Melbourne said.

The firm has opened what they call “the world’s first showroom for 3D printed homes” at The Avenue Viera. There, at least for now, contractors and home buyers can view Frank, a 2,900-pound machine that prints 3D exterior and interior walls using extrusion of a proprietary mixture that Cheniuntai said is a third stronger, a third cheaper, and nine times faster than current concrete house construction. Gary is a mixer that pumps their secret concrete with additives, and Mary is a smart truck that delivers Frank and Gary to a construction site in a vacuum-sealed container. After a 30-minute setup, the system produces what company officials claim are better insulated, stronger cinder blocks requiring only two workers. Contractors can lease the system starting this fall.

Cheniuntai said Frank won’t eliminate jobs. “There are 400,000 (U.S.) positions in the construction business unfilled, in part because of COVID and a huge gap in what we need to build.”

Apis Cor already has received 150 requests to build the first spec or custom-designed homes, with construction to begin next year. A one-story, 1,800-square-foot home with two bedrooms and two baths, garage space, terrace and 3D printed outdoor furniture starts at $360,000. An upgraded two-story home with two-car garage and rooftop observation deck starts at $470,000.

“This is the way they’ll be building houses in 20 years,” said Scott Elliott of Suntree, the CFO of the company through Strategic Partners.

“Shelter is a basic need,” Ragno said. “Home construction is expensive and basically ineffective, and construction work is dirty, difficult and dangerous. Construction waste is our leading polluter. The printed walls can be cut or drilled the same as concrete-masonry units.”

Apis Cor was founded in 2014 in Boston and it moved its headquarters to the Space Coast three years ago. The company recently was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission to offer shares on the stock market to both accredited and non-accredited investors. For information, go to apis-cor.com.