High-Performance Concrete Turned into Furniture, 3D-Printed Homes

The materials offer superior strength, even at less than a half-inch thick.

Based in Kirkwood, N.Y., Trinic designs and manufactures materials.

Specifically, the company specializes in glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) and ultra-high performance concrete (UHPC) that enable some incredible concrete structures — everything from wall cladding and concrete countertops to furniture.

What initially drew me to the company was a simple video of a group of guys making a warped concrete chair. They made the interesting postmodern piece by doing little more than laying a slab of glass fiber reinforced concrete over a simple wooden form. The concrete is self-leveling and self-compacting, so they poured it, it leveled and, after it settled for 15 to 20 minutes, they laid it over the form. After just two hours, you can pull it off of the form, though you might want to give it a bit longer.

I recently spoke with Mark Celebuski, a partner at Trinic who enlightened me to an entire world of concrete forms I never knew existed, like specialty carving concrete that can be used to create faux rocks and boulders, decorative wall cladding, and even fake concrete wood.

The company makes the materials at a blending plant in Binghamton, N.Y., which is about 15 minutes away from the company’s headquarters. Trinic has an expanding base of clients that use its materials to create forms in more than 40 countries around the world. The company has about 2,000 clients in the concrete countertops and furniture business, and another 30 that do wall cladding in the U.S.

What makes these materials unique is that these blends can create structures that are only 1/2" to 3/4" thick, but have strengths from 10,000 to 20,000 PSI. Celebuski says that means you can give it about five good swings with a hammer or maul before, let’s say, an 8 by 4 foot, 1-inch thick mantle starts to give. 

To get the word out, before the COVID pandemic shutdown gatherings, Trinic would offer free classes and training. Each class would have a different theme — for example, how to make concrete furniture. The classes provided hands-on experience, and one lucky attendee would take home a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture, I suppose, if they had a truck, or straps and a strong constitution. 

About eight years ago, Celebulski started holding free classes around the U.S. He had about 20 students per class, with skill levels that ranged from industry pros to garage hobbyists. He told me that when he first started in the business, everything was a big secret. He figured, let's train our own customers and show people how to make 20,000 PSI concretes. He says, “We were material makers, so why not teach them how to use our materials?”

While concrete countertops and furniture is a decent market, Celebulski says the emerging industry in the U.S. is concrete cladding. Right now, companies are shipping cladding in from Europe, a practice he calls “inexcusable.” He says, “It should, and will, be here in the U.S.”

But next, Trinic is working with a 3D printing company on an ultra-high performance concrete mix that can be 3D-printed. While we’ve seen various 3D-printed concrete structures in the past, Celebulski says that no hurricane would ever bring down these potential 3D printed homes: attaining a similar strength as, but without, a steel structure. 

While his classes remain shut down, Celebulski still holds out hope to restart some form of classes this fall. It’s necessary because, as he says, “we invent things, but people need to touch it to understand it.”

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