3D printed canal house

Great news for the field of 3D printed architecture. Local heroes DUS architects are getting the go-ahead for the construction of the world’s first printed Amsterdam canal house, or ‘grachtenpand’. The project will be built, layer by layer, in the expanding Amsterdam Noord area, and should be open before the end of the year.

The printed house is a collaboration between the architects and various construction experts, foundations and municipal parties, the 3D printed house is an unusual eye-catcher for a number of reasons. The consortium signed a memorandum of understanding on April 17th to celebrate the official start of the project.

The house combines age-old techniques and design with truly cutting edge fabrication and construction methods. This year Amsterdam is celebrating the 400th anniversary of the ‘grachtengordel’ or canal belt, the monumental ring of stately canals and canal houses in the city centre. Designed both to expand the city and demonstrate innovation, DUS’s idea kick-starts the new ring to the north of the IJ river, a historical border between north and south.

The canal-house will be printed with the ‘KamerMaker’ or Room Maker, a large 3D printer developed by the architects. Presented to the world in 2012, the full-scale printer is able to construct entire interiors and building components with dimensions of up to 2 m x 2 m x 3.5 m. Of particular interest is the open source nature of the project. Started with government funding, the project has now attracted various investors and vested parties, all of whom are keen to see the first printed canal house become a grand success, and more than just a token. During construction, visitors to the site will be able to see how the house grows, and are able to take part in the project, giving input and feedback.

This means that the project serves an educational purpose. Every room in the house will have a different function, so there are rooms for working on 3D production, looking at printed objects, learning about the architecture and so on.

One important aspect that will be shown is the learning curve of the design-development. As there is no precedent for printed houses of this size, many techniques and optimisations have been learnt on the go. A 1:20 scale model of the house was built, component by component, earlier in the year. The great thing about the 3D print technology is that the same drawings can be used for the full-sized model. The first large test prints are currently in production. Errors and their corrections will be shown to site-visitors as part of the process.

The house is printed using various types of (organic) plastic – with recycled plastic on the cards for the near future. Polypropylene (PP) and polylactic acid (PLA) are currently the main ingredients. Individual components of the project are printed separately, and these are then put together like blocks of Lego. The 3D printing technique means that each building component can be any desirable shape, and can be ornamental or plain. Any type of detailing and cut-outs are possible, theoretically making each printed building unique. And, fundamentally, both interior and exterior are printed together, so both are ready at the same time.

Credits go to the City of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Economic Board, Amsterdam Smart City partners and the construction industry, all of whom are committed to the DUS team during construction.