Here at Q-CAD, we try to stay up to date on interesting developments in 3D printing and CAD architectural drafting. This week, we’ll take a look at a Dutch architecture firm’s groundbreaking experiment in using 3D printing to construct a livable dwelling.
The First 3D Printed House?
Dutch architecture firm DUS Architects is currently in the midst of producing what it claims will be the world’s first 3D printed house. When completed, the house will be a 13-room canal house in Northern Amsterdam, assembled from large, black plastic blocks. The blocks are being fabricated on a machine that DUS has dubbed the “KamerMaker,” a custom-made 3D printer that can produce material with ten times the thickness of a standard desktop 3D printer.
According to DUS’ director and co-founder, Martine de Wit, the structure’s individual rooms will be independent standing structures, which will then be placed on top of each other and secured by the blocks’ interlocking capabilities. The house’s interior and exterior walls are printed concurrently, with space built in between them for electrical and plumbing systems to be added later. After the internal components have been added, and the house is fully assembled, concrete and insulation will be placed within the walls to complete the structure.
Printing of the house’s blocks began in January, and DUS currently estimates that it will take three years for the components to be manufactured. In addition to being an experiment in 3D printed housing, the project is also considering trying different components to create its plastic blocks. The current formula for the 3D printed building blocks uses bio-plastic made from 80% plant oil.
DUS has grander aspirations for its 3D printed house project than just seeing if the task can be done. According to de Wit, the project is meant to test the feasibility of creating houses out of recyclable material, as well as laying the groundwork for reducing construction costs by allowing firms to create building designs in one location, and then transmit their CAD layouts to the construction location for the building materials to be fabricated. The houses designed via this process can also theoretically be disassembled and moved to a new location with ease, and the designs altered to meet the specifications of individual home and building owners.
In addition to creating houses, de Wit also predicts that the process DUS is currently using can also be used to create furniture, art, and other craft material. Despite the company’s grand ambitions, though, de Wit also cautions that the project is still an experiment, and that there are still many challenges that need to be overcome before the process becomes a viable option for regular construction, and that the process probably won’t replace current building methods entirely.
Others are even more skeptical than de Wit. According to Dr. Phil Reeves of the UK 3D printing research firm Econolyst, DUS’s methods have several disadvantages that make it unlikely to find widespread adoption. The first is time: At the current rate of three years to completion, DUS’s 3D printed house will take much longer to construct than it would with current construction methods. Using current modular construction methods, it is much faster to fabricate a building’s parts in an offsite factory, and then transport them to the building site for quick assembly. Reeves also notes that the DUS house’s form makes replacing or altering internal wiring, or even correcting faults in the building’s construction, rather difficult to perform once the house has been assembled and the concrete in the walls has been poured.
Whether or not DUS’s project develops into more than an interesting experiment still remains to be seen. Regardless, the company’s plans for a 3D printed house represents a milestone in the use of CAD architectural design.
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