March 31, 2015 / 10:40 AM / 4 years ago

Dutch architects show off 3D house-building prowess

Dutch architects are using a giant 3D printer to construct a prototype house in a bid to pave the way to a sustainable, environmentally-friendly, future for construction.

DUS Architects of Amsterdam began construction of the house in 2014 and the prototype walls can already be seen - and touched - on site by curious visitors.

The house structure uses a plastic heavily based on plant oil that co-founder Hans Vermeulen, who initiated the project, says is waste-free and eco-friendly. Vermeulen says the building industry is one of the most polluting and inefficient around, whereas with 3D-printing, there is no waste, reduced transportation costs, and everything can be melted down and recycled. The idea is that homes could also be easily taken apart and put back together at another location if its occupants want to move area.

Vermeulen says the 3D printed house won’t necessarily be the most beautiful home, but will act as a pioneer for future environmental construction. “It doesn’t mean that everything needs to be round or curved or crazy form but it is possible and in that way we are now discovering a new technique of the wall integrating all kinds of necessities, let’s say, like water systems, installations, strength, and doing that in a very smart way we can reduce the material we need and in that sense make the house more smart,” he said.

The current material is a bio-plastic mix, containing 75 percent plant oil and reinforced with microfibres. Speaking at the small canal-side plot in north Amsterdam, Vermeulen compared his prototype to the CD player which had a major role in digitizing music.

He said: “The interesting thing about digital fabrication, of which 3D printer is one technique, is that it actually is the...we often say: it’s a CD player of the building industry - so how did CD-player digitalized the music industry, and that’s why we now have iPods and now Spotify where we share online and everything is streaming, the building industry is a little bit more conservative at the moment but digitalization can totally transform that industry into a more agile industry as well where you can actually share online and upgrade your neighborhood online, and share world-wide good ideas and then send it to the machine, the fabrication technique which can make a connection between the social networks on one hand and physical making industry on the other hand.”

By 2017 the 3D printed building blocks will have been constructed to form a 13-room complex, modeled on a traditional Dutch gabled canal house. The KamerMaker, or Room Builder, a scaled-up version of an open-source home 3D-printer prints each block. It was developed with Dutch firm Ultimaker.

Vermeulen says the technology will eventually allow householders to make custom-built 3D homes. “Digital fabrication allows us and allows customers to tweak designs into their own personal needs,” he said.

Last April Chinese firm WinSun displayed at the Suzhou Industrial Park a five-storey apartment building and a 1100 square meter villa it said it had 3D printed using recycled materials. But the technology remains in its infancy.

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