Ahh, Amsterdam in springtime
: Bustling flower markets, jam-packed museums, orange-hued public inebriation, tourists careening out of control on rented bicycles, and, this spring, crowds gathering to view the beginnings of what’s touted as the world’s first full-sized 3D printed
Last month on a vacant canal-side lot in a northern section of the city, work commenced on a 13-room prototype abode-cum-public exhibition designed in traditional Dutch canal house style — tall, slim, deep, gabled, and hugely picturesque — but to be built using decidedly non-traditional materials: giant, honeycomb-structured plastic blocks that essentially resemble giant LEGO pieces on steroids.
A collaboration between Dus Architects
and Dutch 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker
along with various partners including Heijmans and Amsterdam Smart City, 3D Print Canal House
utilizes a beefed-up variation of standard desktop 3D printers dubbed the KamerMaker (RoomMaker). Standing 20-feet tall, this impressive bit of open-source machinery can pump out a single, massive interlocking block within about a week.
As of the project’s grand public debut in March, a single 10-foot corner segment of the structure weighing nearly 400 pounds had been printed, layer by layer, and installed at the build site. The project team anticipates that it will take a total of three years to print and assemble the structure — viewed as an perpetually changing work in progress — in its entirety although it may come to fruition sooner as 3D printing technology continues to evolve at a breakneck pace.
With the goal to use a “renewable, sustainable, strong, tactile and beautiful material that can compete with current building techniques, the printed building blocks themselves consist of a bio-plastic “hotmelt” mix developed by Henkel that’s 80 percent plant-based. The project team considers this material — and the technology behind it — to be a potential game-changer: Hedwig Heinsman of Dus Architects tells The Guardian
: “The building industry is one of the most polluting and inefficient industries out there. With 3D-printing, there is zero waste, reduced transportation costs, and everything can be melted down and recycled. This could revolutionise how we make our cities.”
One catch to the recycling aspect, for now at least anyways, is that the blocks are filled with insulating concrete to provide reinforcement. However, could very well change as the project continues to evolve: “It's an experiment. We called it the room maker, but it's also a conversation maker,” Heinsman explains. “This is only the beginning, but there could be endless possibilities, from printing functional solutions locally in slums and disaster areas, to high-end hotel rooms that are individually customised and printed in marble dust.”
More nuts and bolts about the assembly process
via the 3D Print Canal House website:
The house design consists of several room types, which are assembled digtially and converted into one structural design. Each room is printed separately on site before being assembled into one house. This way the rooms can be carefully tested in a safe and easy accessible manner. Each room is different and consists of complex and tailormade architecture and unique design features. The structure is scripted and this creates its proper strength but also generates ornament, and allows for new types of smart features, such as angled shading scripted to the exact solar angle. Each printed room consists of several parts, which are joined together as large Lego-like blocks. Both the outside façade as the interior are printed at once, in one element. Within the 3D printed walls are spares for connecting construction, cables, pipes, communication technique, wiring etc.
The rooms themselves are entirely structurally sound. In the second phase of the project, the separate rooms are assembled into connected floors, and then stacked into the entire house. Added advantage is that the rooms can fairly easy be disconnected in case the house needs to be relocated.
As of late March, over 2,000 curious tourists and Amsterdammers alike had visited the 3D Print Canal House's “exhibition, research- and building” site to learn more about 3D printing technology and explore what’s been completed of the building thus far. (A certain American VIP
also recently viewed scale models of the project on display at Rijksmuseum). For tech geeks and green building buffs in need of a respite from the tulips, windmills, and Van Gough worship, you couldn’t ask for a better — and not too out of the way — diversion while visiting Amsterdam this spring (and beyond). The entrance fee is an affordable €2,50.