martes, 18 de noviembre de 2014

What is the 3D Print Canal House?

The 3D Print Canal House is an exhibition, research- and building site for 3D Printing Architecture. A unique project where an international team of partners collaborates in ‘research & doing’ linking science, design, construction and community, by 3D printing a canal house at an expo-site in the very heart of Amsterdam.


1. Why 3D Printing?
3D printing is a fascinating new production technique. It allows you to directly translate a digital file into a physical product. 3D printing can have huge implications for the way we fabricate things - for example the elimination of waste, transport costs and standardisation of elements - DUS architects is investigating what the implications of 3D printing are for the building industry. What better way to do this than by 3D printing an entire house?

2. Why a canal house?
The canal house is a symbol of Amsterdam. When the canal belt was built 400 years ago, Amsterdam was a prime example of innovation. Each canal house can house several functions, such as trade, storage, living, craft, and each canal house is richly ornamented and unique. A canal house is recognizable and attractive. It is interesting to investigate what this traditional architype can be in a 21st century context. 3D printing a canal house shows the world how to combine traditional local values with new innovative ideas.

3. What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of 3D printing a building?
One great advantage of 3D printing over traditional buidling techniques (such as prefabricated concrete) is the possibilities of using a high level of detail and ornament and variation. Rather than using standardized elements, 3D printed designs can each be modified and customized to fit the user's needs and taste. It will no longer be more expensive or more labour intensive to add details to for example your façade and it is easy to create unique objects.

3D printing is an additive manufacturing technique. That means the process goes straight from the raw material to the final product, thus eliminating waste. There are no transport costs, as designs can simply be transferred digitally and printed locally. This also implies that when 3D printing is used widely in each part of the world, it will no longer be cheaper to have things produced in countries like China or Bangladesh as opposed to the Netherlands. Everyone can just produce everything in their own local context.

In terms of disadvantages, it is obviously a huge challenge to create a building that complies with all the current building regulations. There is the question of insulation, fireproofing, wind loads, foundations...these, as well as the possible materials to print with (using this printer) are all things that are being researched and investigated.

4. How does the Kamermaker work?
The Kamermaker works in exactly the same way as the Ultimaker, the small desktop 3D printer, as it is simply an upscaled version. A digital design is placed in the 'brain' of the printer, a very simple computer, where it is translated into a G-code. A G-code is a file that slices a 3D model into layers. This file programs the printer to move along a path that is optimal for that design, layer by layer. 

In the 'control room' of the printer is also the material supply. We print with plastic in the form of granulate which enters an extruder via a funnel. In the extruder the granulate is heated (the material melts at 170 degrees Celsius) and pressed together to a homogeneous liquid. This is brought to the printer head by a heated tube. The printer head extrudes the melted material along the programmed path on the X and Y axes and when finished moves up one step along the Z axis. This is fairly similar to a normal printer, only with one more direction, which allows objects to be printed layer by layer.

5. What materials does the Kamermaker print with?
We are currently printing with bioplastics. The granulate that goes into the Kamermaker is called Macromelt, a type of industrial glue (Hotmelt) developed by Henkel. It is made of 80% of vegetable oil. It melts at 170 degrees Celsius. We aim to print with a material that is sustainable, of biological origin, melts at a relatively low temperature, and of course is sturdy and stable. We are also researching the possibilities of printing with recycled materials: Plastics of course, but we’re also looking into using wood pallets and natural stone waste.

Technically, the Kamermaker can print with any material that melts (at a temperature that isn't too high) and then hardens again.

7. Who are the initiators and partners? 
DUS architects is the initiator of both de KamerMaker and the 3D Print Canal House. DUS architects  is an Amsterdam based architecture office founded in 2004 by Hans Vermeulen, Hedwig Heinsman and Martine de Wit. DUS architcts builds ‘public architecture’: Architecture that influences the public domain using scale 1:1 models, urban process- and strategy design, and that ranges from temporary interiors to long-term urban transformation trajectories.

DUS architects is collaborating with lots of important partners who invest in the project with knowledge and means. For example:

  • Henkel is developing a new sustainable 3D print material for the building industries. 
  • Heijmans is researching what new construction techniques are needed for 3D printing buildings. 
  • The Municipality of Amsterdam investigates the effect of the digital maker-industries on regulations and opportunities for employment.
Check the 'partners' section at this website for an actual overview of all our courageous partners!

8. How is the house financed?
The project is partially funded by the contributions of our partners and partially funded by the municipality of Amsterdam, Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and the DOEN Foundation. A lot of the sponsorship the 3D Print Canal House gets is in natura, through contributing knowledge or materials. In fact, the 3D Print Canal House is one big collaboration project, in which everybody shares and gets a share.

And of course our visitors help finance the house by paying an entrance fee!

9. How much does the house cost?
That is impossible to say since all of the materials we use have never been on the market for this purpose. The 3D Print Canal House is a research project partially funded and partially created by DUS architects and its partners. At the end of the research trajectory, we hope to be able to give an accurate estimate of what it takes to 3D print a house. The goal is to create a cost-effective building technique for building sustainable and comfortable houses.

10. What is there to do at the 3D print canal house?
The construction site of the 3D print canal house not just a building site, it is an open workplace where an international team of partners collaborates in 'research and doing (R&DO), as well as an open source expo. You can visit it like a regular museum to learn more about the techniques being researched and used, and you can watch the team at work! We have an audiotour to explain you everything you see.

The building is constantly under construction: in three years time more and more rooms will be printed and assembled on site as the design and printing techniques progresses. So evry week this museum changes!

Also there are regular workshops and events held at the expo (watch our calendar). If you wish to book a personalised tour, attend a workshop or lecture, or rent out the expo for a special event, please contact

11. Why do I need to pay an entrance fee?
When you visit the 3d Print Canal House, you are not just visiting a building site, you are visiting an open research workplace and exhibition. By paying €2,50 entrance fee, we can create an informative and secure tour for visitors without being of to much disturbance for the research and work progress. With the fee you pay, you are directly funding the development of the project. Don't worry, you'll be getting value for your money, such as a free audiotour.

12. How can I contribute?
The 3D Print Canal House is an open project. That means that we are learning from our audience during the project. We are always happy to hear about your ideas.

You can contribute by sharing your knowledge or simply by visiting and paying entrance fee or booking a group tour.

If you wish to make further contributions, find out how by clicking on 'Become a Friend!'

13. When will the house be finished?
The 3D Print Canal House is a 3 year research and development project. This does not mean that the expected time it will take to 3D print a building in the future will be 3 years. On the contrary: The aim for the use of 3D printing in architecture is to build faster compared to traditional building techniques. Within the 3 years research project of the 3D print Canal House, DUS architects is building the Canal House and by doing so building up new knowledge for this purpose and sharing this with the community through the website and expo center.

14. What will happen to the building after it's finished?
Most likely it will be a public building. We hope that the 3D Print Canal House will become a hub for innovation and new production techniques and materials for the building industry. And of course that many more 3D printed buildings will pop up around the globe!

15. What sets this print project apart from other large scale 3D print initiatives?
Currently, 3D printing is on the rise, and there are many other initiatives, both on a large and small scale (also see 'other 3D printing initiatives' for a bit more in depth overview) going on that we can hardly keep track.

What makes the 3D Print Canal House special is that it is a project which is 'open' in every way: The initiators, designers and builders (DUS architects) are the client: the focus is on research, experimentation and development, instead of finishing a house. The project involves many different industries, disciplines and parties tied together by a common goal. More importantly, the process is being shown to the public (not only the successes but also the possible failures it will encounter!) in order to learn and develop.

16. What are some other interesting 3D printing initiatives?
3D printing is already widely used in many industries, particularly when on a small scale a high level of unique detail is required (big chances are that if you need a crown or hearing aid, it will be 3D printed). It is a production technique that is becoming more and more widely available. The great thing is that 3D printing can easily create objects or parts of objects that are custom fit and have a high level of detail and variety.

The 3D Print Canal House is a pioneering example and the first house that is being printed on the spot with the largest portable 3D printer. However, there are quite a few other initiatives on a similar large scale around right now, and chances are there will be more and more over the next months and years.

Some interesting examples to look at are:

Examples of using ‘our’ FDM printing technique combined with a concrete like material are
  • Shanghai WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co.
  • A different technique is developed by Enrico Dini in Italy using first a layer of sand and immediately after a layer of binder (glue) - turning the sand into a solid concrete like object. This printer is also used for Universe Architecture's Landscape House.
  • Dirk van der Kooij in Zaandam produces interior objects like chairs and vases with a FDM like printing technique using recycled plastics.

On a smaller scale 3D printing is used in the

  • medical industry, 
  • machinery, 
  • prototyping, 
  • jewerly, 
  • art, 
  • furniture, and 
  • many more. 
Would you like to start 3D printing yourself? Visit open fablabs like Protospace or i-Fabrica (in the Netherlands). If you would like to have your digital model 3D printed by a thirt party upload your model on one of these websites:

Your 3D printed object will be shipped right to your home!There is plenty of information on 3D printing to find on the internet. An example of an easy to read overview on 3D printing can be found here. But the best way to learn more is of course to visit the expo centre!

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