3D printing, one room at a time

One team changing how our homes might be built are DUS Architects in Amsterdam. They’re currently 3D printiting a whole canal house...
28 April 2014

Interview with 

Martine de Wit, DUS Architects


The plan for the 3D printed canal house


The plan for the 3D printed canal houseGinny:: One team working on a huge change in how homes are built is DUS architects in Amsterdam and they're currently 3D printing a whole canal house, one room at a time. Martine de Wit is the co-founder of the practice. Your 3D printing house, I'm guessing you're not using a sort of normal 3D printer, the desktop things that I've seen before.

Martine - No, not really, but we actually upscaled. We upscaled a ultimaker which is a self-built 3D printers and we upscaled it to a size so we can now print 2 ½ and 2 ½ by 3 ½ meters high.

Ginny - Okay. What made you decide that 3D printing a house was a good idea?

Martine - Well, we had these desktop printers at the office and we were printing architectural scale models with them. While doing that, we thought, "Well, why not build a house at once without making the model?"

Ginny - So, most 3D printers I've seen use plastic to build their models. Is that what you're using?

Martine - Yes, that's what we use as well. But a little bit different sort of plastic.

Ginny - How exactly does it work? Do you print them out in layers?

Martine - Yes. It's exactly the same as the desktop printers. So, you really build it up layer by layer. So, it's the FTM technique as we call it and we use pellets instead of a filament and the pellets go into an extruder where it's melted and squeezed together to a homogenous liquid. And that goes to the nozzle which is programmed.

Ginny - How do you know that something like this is going to be structurally sound? I'd be a little bit nervous about getting into a house that was printed on a 3D printer.

Martine - I can imagine. No, we are testing that all. So, we have a lot of research and do projects within the project. One of them is the construction research, so we test by doing because there are no parameters of course to calculate with. So, we make test prints and those test print go into a scientific programme to get parameters to start making calculations for construction.

Ginny - How did you go about designing this house? This is something brand new. What made you decide to go for a canal house for example?

Martine - Okay, yeah. When we think about 3D printing then you can also think that you make something here, but you can print it all over the world. So, we really wanted to do something local, something that fits Amsterdam. But Amsterdam was always the inner circle was, you do the rings let's say, the canal belt. It's really a centre for innovation with the newest things we're showing off. Also, when you look at the canals, you see the houses, they're always kind of the same language, but they are really different. So, we thought that could be really nice example to make the 21st century canal house.

Ginny - And is this something you see as being in the future, this will be how everything is built?

Martine - I think so. At least it will be very common I think, and I don't think that we are going to print all the houses maybe. But I do think that lots of houses will be printed with the houses that are still built in traditional ways. The 3D printer will be just a tool next to a saw or a drill bit. It's really going to be a tool which is used to make a house.

Ginny - Now, we've been talking a lot about being green and being environmentally friendly. Building a whole house out of plastic doesn't sound very environmentally friendly to me.

Martine - Well, I think plastic can be also very environmentally friendly, but most of all, I think the environmentally friendly part of 3D printing is that you only transport the raw materials, so not the constructed parts. And also, you're only going to use the materials that you need for the object. So, there's no waste at all. The building is the biggest waste producer which we have at the moment. So, that's going to be a big difference and we are thinking of printing with recycled plastics, the plastic which are not in use anymore and then the fourth thing actually is that if you have something printed, you could shred it and use the material again.

Ginny - Good answer!


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