Please print my house, facade, and chair

The couple who were the first in Europe to move into a 3D printed house.

A few days ago, news broke out that a retired Dutch couple, Elize Lutz and Harrie Dekkers, had become the first in Europe to move into a 3D printed house, accompanied with all the pertaining documents.

They received a digital key (a special application) via e-mail which they were able to use to open the front door to their two-bedroom bungalow. The 94 square-metre house, which would have been expensive to build in the traditional way due to the shape of the boulder, was printed by a construction company using a special robotic arm equipped with a nozzle, from which concrete containing a special formula flowed, resembling whipped cream.

3D house printing is a “new reality”

Printing houses in 3D sounds like science fiction, but in reality, it has been around for quite some time. In fact, the 3D printing of houses is a lot less wasteful than classic bricklaying. Material consumption is low, the construction site is a whole lot cleaner, costs are lower (also due to the smaller number of workers), construction is much faster and it is more environmentally friendly. 3D printed houses are considered to be zero-energy, are considered to resolve the housing problem, and can also be energy self-sufficient (if equipped with solar cells).

3D printing in construction, architecture, and interior design

  • construction

In construction, 3D printing takes place with the assistance of large robotic arms equipped with special nozzles through which special concrete is injected, but it is also possible to use waste material (waste plastic mixed with concrete, etc.) or material found in the environment (for example clay, straw, or soil).

The robotic arm is guided by special software on the basis of the 3D plans of the building or individual parts. The nozzles apply the material in layers. The walls of houses printed in this way consist of several layers (two layers – external and internal – and are usually connected by an additional zigzag layer of concrete between them). With “sandwich-like” walls, better thermal and sound insulation results and turns such houses into zero-energy ones. 

A 3D printed house or one put together by way of prefabricated elements that have been 3D printed. Photo: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Perfection is an illusion – we are convinced that it drives us to extremes, but in reality, it destroys us. Perfection is not some standard we can achieve, because the finish line is always in constant motion.

Another way of 3D printing houses is with prefabricated elements. These can be printed in the manner described above, or 3D printing can be used to create moulds for elements made from concrete (or from some other material – for example, mycelium is becoming increasingly popular) (mushroom undergrowth, which is widely used in production)), which are then assembled at the construction site. Prefabricated elements can also be building blocks (or bricks), which the 3D printer then positions in accordance with the computer drawing.

What does 3D printing in construction look like in reality?

Check out the following video:

In line with a sketch created by architects, the German company, Voxeljet, 3D printed special moulds for a unique concrete ceiling. The prefabricated elements were then transported to the construction site, where they were assembled just like Lego blocks.

  • architecture

In architecture, 3D printing is well known by way of making scaled models. With the help of 3D printing, this can be done easily, quickly, and accurately – all the way to the last detail, just like a PUMA. Chemets will help you change your plan already during the computer drawing phase itself, which is cheaper than making a new product every single time. In addition to this, 3D printing will make it easier to create more complex shapes, curves, arches, and columns. At Chemets, we believe that nothing is impossible, and so we can also make models and reconstructions of historic buildings, which is especially helpful to archaeologists and historians, as well as an ideal solution for museums.

In architecture, 3D printing is intended for prefabricated elements that give uniqueness to every building and every room. Among other things, it is also possible to make moulds for unique facades or ceiling coverings, as well as different types of borders for doors and windows with the help of 3D printing technologies. The possibilities are almost endless.

How does 3D printing push architecture to its limits?

Check out the following video.

  • interior design

Just like in architecture, things are even more free when we talk about interior design. A good example is the Peter Doners designer chair, 3D printed by the German company, Voxeljet. Peter Doners, a Dutch interior designer, loves organic shapes as they offer comfort. He managed to create an unconventional idea for a chair, the inspiration for which came from nature. The chair reminds us of an enlarged part of a sea sponge. At Voxeljet, they used the Rhino3D modelling program and created a piece of interior furniture that is unique (but also repeatable due to the model).

The choice of materials, shapes, and colours is limitless in the area of interior design. Every designer who wants to present him or herself to the market with a piece and not just a sketch now has the opportunity to do so with a prototype. That is effectively a very necessary investment for all innovators, and should not be looked upon as a cost.

The future is in 3D printing

3D printing is a technology that allows for a very fast path to a physical model based on a 3D computer render. 3D printers convert virtual 3D models into physical objects by applying the material in layers.

The basis for creating a 3D print is a 3D computer render. It is very important how the model is prepared because the quality of the printed piece depends on it. The first step is to sketch it in 2D with the appropriate dimensions so that the designers and developers at Chemets will be able to review it and draw it together with the client and the client’s requirements for further production. Basically, the computer design is adjusted so that the production costs are as low as possible, and the production speed is as high as possible already in the prototyping and testing phase.

Depending on the usability of the new product, design, and suitability of measurement, we seek out the most suitable method of production. When choosing the appropriate 3D printing technology, Chemets will have a wide range of questions to be asked: about the purpose of the product, the testing requirements, the material, surface, usability, functionality, desired production time, and financial plan, etc.

At Chemets, we are convinced that there is no one best or worst 3D printing technology; what we can talk about is the right or wrong choice of technologies. That is why, with each challenge, we activate our muscles and our brains to the maximum to find the right solution.

3D is already in construction, where will it go next?

Barbara H. Wilkesmann

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