A house made by a 3D printer? This is no longer a dream. The façade of the Dutch "Europe Building" in the Amsterdam Marine Quarter was partly built in this way. The architecture firm DUS presented the idea and also provided a mobile 3D printer for such work. For the construction of the facade elements, the architects used both the gantry systems and the engineering support of the motion plastics® specialist igus®.
Everything started small - even the 3D printing. This applies not only to the market share of this production technology, but also for the size of the printed components. Initially, there were small prototypes, orthodontic aids, and designer jewellery, which were manufactured with generative processes. Today the 3D printer already produces motor vehicle components and - at igus® - customised wear-resistant Tribo-components. And it goes even bigger: the Dutch architecture firm has realised the idea of building entire houses in this way – with a mobile 3D printer in XXL format, which is housed in a shipping container.
What seems exotic or a marketing gimmick at first glance, on closer inspection is not only charming but really has a lot of arguments in its favour. In this way the load-bearing structures can be manufactured from plastic recyclate, which is also a sustainable enterprise. Construction site logistics considerably simplified: The elements are printed on site, placed on the spot and filled with concrete. And while cost-effective prefabricated architecture looked almost always boring and uniform so far, now a great freedom of design has opened up. In addition, the architects of DUS say, this process can be used very well for the quick construction of new houses in disaster areas.
To transform the idea into reality, DUS founded the company Actual. The aim of Actual is to enable the owner to design or adapt building components to customer requirements on a digital platform, which are then manufactured on site using XXL 3D printers. Under the term "Kamermaker 2.0" (literally "Room maker 2.0") this idea is very popular in the Dutch media. It was also reported worldwide and was even presented to US President Barack Obama during a visit to Amsterdam.
How the new way of building the house looks like in practice can be seen at the Europa-Haus in the Amsterdam Marine Quarter, which was built for the duration of the Dutch Presidency of the EU. The airy facade of this house is reminiscent of historic sailing ships, which were previously produced in this district. The 3D printed elements made of biodegradable plastic, which can be recycled at the end of the presidency, can be recognised below the sails. The 3D-printed facade elements are accompanied by 3D-printed seat elements, which were also created with Actual's 3D printer.
In the spirit of modern networking, Actual has sought for partners to help the "Kamer Maker 2.0" become an instant success. As one of these partners, igus® has aided in the design of the mobile 3D printer. The first generation had a separate room for the control and could therefore produce "only" parts up to a size of 2.00 x 2.00 x 3.00 metres. Thus, there was need for improvement, both in precision and in the printing speed.
The igus engineers developed new axes on which the print head moves. In the process they used their expertise in additive production: Conventional 3D printers of several manufacturers use igus® linear axes, and in the manufacturing igus® operates its own 3D printer to produce customised sliding elements from its iglidur® filaments.
In the planning the engineers made use of the modular system of the igus® multi-axis gantries. They are available as line, flat and room linear robots for one, two and three axes, and depart from predefined surfaces and spaces. In this case, a room linear robot is used, in which the x- and y-axis have been implemented with drylin® toothed belt units and the z-axis with drylin® lead screw and lead screw nut systems.
The print head moves precisely on the self-lubricating linear systems via complete toothed belt systems, which igus® supplied ready to install. Even for the lead screw units, which position the linear robot vertically, igus® drives with position detection are used.
igus® also helped with proposals for the integration of the printer – which now can print up to five-metre high components – into the maritime container and supported Actual with the commissioning of the second generation of the "Kamermakers" on site. In addition, other components from the igus® construction kit for plain bearings and linear systems were also installed, for example, the igubal® pillow block bearings. And the way the cables for signals and electrical current are safely guided to the print head is conspicuous: Here the igus® energy chains are used.
With the second generation of the "Kamermaker 2.0", Actual can print larger elements with high precision and greater speed. The igus® linear robot system was instrumental in this. Joe Platt, Head of Mechanical Engineering at Actual: "igus® gave us excellent support, and the gantry proved to be the best in practice." “
Among the projects undertaken by Actual at present is the "3D print Canal House", which is currently being built on a town canal in Amsterdam. The construction site is public and already has had more than 40,000 visitors. If you want to see a 3D printer building a house "live" in the XXL format, you can do so in Amsterdam at Asterweg 49.