Robot Builds with Adobe, Straw and Limestone

The five men who created Terran Robotics believe their adobe construction process offers a viable and cost-effective solution to the soaring cost of owning a home. They make thick walls with a mixture of clay-rich mud, shredded straw and limestone slurry. Terra’s mission statement is: Turning dirt into affordable, sustainable, comfortable, beautiful homes.

During an open house at the Terran Robotics site in Bloomington, Indiana, visitors got a close-up look and demonstration of a cable-driven, 80-pound robot designed and built by mechanical engineer Nick Ely with funds from the National Science Foundation. The AI-controlled robot has pincher-type arms that can scoop up and move heavy globs of wet adobe that are then moved by conveyor to plywood forms. Impulse hammers then pound the material in, creating 12-inch-thick walls that when dry are heavy and durable. This eliminates much of the labor in building with adobe.

The company’s website offers a place in line to anyone who puts down $100 as a deposit toward a Terran-designed and built home in the future. So far, about 50 people have put their names on the list.

While Terran’s focus is on building walls, the company hopes to expand the automation concept to other housing components such as floors and roofs.

Adobe homes are sound proof, fire resistant and energy efficient. The company says Terran walls regulate indoor humidity, enhance air quality and eliminate costly climate-control systems.

With the robot being fine-tuned, the wall construction process refined, the 3D printer technology completed and a prototype building up, Terran is moving forward with plans to build some houses. Terran Marketing Director Nate O’Donnell said for 2023, the company anticipates a per-square-foot price competitive with the market rate for a new custom-built home in Bloomington. Next spring, the Terran team and equipment will be constructing a 1,000-square-foot Habitat for Humanity house.“It will be built at a cost slightly below a normal Habitat for Humanity project in Bloomington,” O’Donnell said, adding “it will be well below market rate for a home in Bloomington.”

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