The Suitcase Lady


April 26, 2016, 9:13 pm

Put aside thoughts of 3D printers being used to turn out Starwars figures or little tchotchkes. The Dutch, leaders in innovative design, are using a 3D printer to build a house. And not just any old house, but a 21st century version of the 400 year old houses that line Amsterdam’s canals.

Project architects DUS began the three year endeavor in 2014 and describe it as “research by doing.” The 3D Print Canal House combines a building site, research center and exhibit space which is open to the public.

Architect Hans Vermeulen states, “The goal is to create a cost effective building technique for building sustainable and comfortable houses.”

The 3D Print Canal House is the first to be printed on the spot with a large, portable 3D printer. The  printing is being done with plastic made from vegetable oil rather than petroleum. Digital design files are fed into the 20 foot tall printer called the KamerMaker (room builder). The interior and exterior walls are then printed layer by layer from floor to ceiling with spaces left for pipes and wiring. The process is not lengthy, and when all the individual rooms are completed, they will be assembled to create a 13 room house on one of the city’s canals. Completion date is 2018, and the canal house will be a public building and research center.

Many significant and exciting outcomes can result from this innovative construction technology. My first thought was that housing for refugees could be made rapidly. Shelters for the homeless, temporary housing after natural disasters and homes for communities with housing shortages could become feasible.

On a personal note, one of my husband and my biggest frustrations when we designed our  own home would be eliminated. We had many wonderful ideas, but were quickly brought back to reality by an architect friend.

“You can only design something with right angles,” he said, “your budget is too small for anything with curves.”


DUS Architects

3D printers easily can make curves and free form shapes. An automated 3D construction method called “contour crafting” developed at the University of Southern California can print a 2,500 square foot house in 24 hours at a savings of 60% compared to traditional construction.

Despite roadblocks such as building codes, high land costs and Luddite thinking, I’m hopeful that digital printed construction is a concept that has arrived.

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