3D printing has long since moved beyond lumpy-faced figurines and custom iPhone cases. They have been used to make made racing cars, prosthetic limbs and even human organs. Two years ago, we published an article about Behrokh Khoshnevis from the University of Southern California, who was trying to create the world’s first 3D printed home. So far, he’s been unsuccessful but, now, a team from Amsterdam is aiming to do just that.
According to a CNN article, Dutch company DUS Architects is at stage one of its mammoth 3D build, having created the large plastic blocks which will form the basis of the finished structure. A huge custom-made 3D printer called a KamerMaker produces a material 10 times thicker than that from a standard 3D printer.
The plastic blocks created by KamerMaker will then be assembled into rooms, which will be fitted together to build a 13-room canal house. Between six and ten blocks are required to make one room.
'These rooms will be structural entities on their own. We will then place them on top of each other to make a house,' explained DUS Architects co-founder and director, Martine de Wit.
From both an environmental and economic standpoint, 3D printing offers a viable alternative to conventional construction methods. Speaking to The Guardian, Hedwig Heinsman from DUS reinforced the environmental message:
'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.'
Primarily, the buildings are being cultivated using biodegradable plastics (80% plant oil), but other substances are also being tested for their suitability.
The house is very much a work in progress, with an estimated three years until it’s complete. At this stage, the project is still in its experimental phase, allowing DUS to test out the 'feasibility, challenges and cost implications of fashioning in a house in this way.'
3D printed construction offers a more eco-friendly option than traditional building methods and an unprecedented level of customisation. The precision of 3D printed design makes it easy to accurately predict the quantity of material needed, which greatly reduces waste.
Realistically speaking, 3D printed techniques are unlikely to replace current building methods any time soon, however they do offer a tantalising glimpse of things to come. However, not everyone is convinced that 3D printing is the way forward for the building industry.
Dr Phil Reeves, Managing Director of UK-based 3D printing consultancy and research firm, Econolyst, is one such sceptic. He claims that printing a house takes longer than established building techniques which have already proven effective.
'A lot of housing projects are using very modular systems of building where things are built in a factory off site, bought and then assembled very quickly,' Reeves said. 'This is counter to that. It's about much longer times on the building site.'
Other potential problems Reeves points out refer to wiring and electrical alterations, which become incredibly difficult once the walls have been insulated with concrete.
Overcoming these obstacles will be difficult but de Wit and her colleagues are adamant that the project will eventually benefit the construction industry as whole.
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