Giant 3D printer starts spitting out a house

Forget machine parts and iPhone cases, the Dutch are thinking much bigger by using a 20-foot-tall 3D printer to create whole rooms that can be assembled into unique, customized houses.

Michael Franco
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
Michael Franco
2 min read
3D Printer
A nighttime view of The KamerMaker, or "room builder," a 20-foot high 3D printer that's helping its owners construct a completely 3D-printed home in Amsterdam. Dus Architects

Till now, 3D printing has been used to create relatively small items -- everything from iPhone cases to prosthetic fingers to aircraft parts and alien shoes. But none of those projects are a match for the full-size house Dutch architects have begun building in Amsterdam using a 20-foot-tall 3D printer.

3D-printed canal house
A 3D-printed piece of the canal house on the project's opening weekend. (Click to enlarge.) Dus Architects

The project, known simply as the "3D Print Canal House," uses a super-sized version of the popular in-home 3D printer made by Ultimaker. Dutch architectural firm Dus commissioned the machine when it decided to take the scale-model rooms it was already 3D-printing and turn them into the real thing.

"We bought a container from the Internet and we transformed it into one of the biggest printers on this planet," said Dus co-founder Hans Vermeule in a video (below) about the project.

The printer is called KamerMaker, which means "room builder," and that's exactly what it does -- construct a series of rooms that can be basically snapped together to form an entire house.

Thus far, the printer has produced a corner of the house with a partial staircase attached. The piece weighed about 400 pounds. The building blocks that are currently being produced, and take about a week each to print, have a honeycombed internal structure that will eventually be filled with a foam that reaches a concrete-like hardness, lending support and weight to the finished house, according to an Associated Press report.

The architects see multiple benefits to 3D-printing a house, aside from the possibilities of near-limitless customization. "For the first time in history, over half of the world's population is living in cities," Vermeulen said. "We need a rapid building technique to keep up the pace with the growth of the megacities. And we think 3D printing can be that technique."

Hedwig Heinsman, another of Dus' co-founders, adds that there are environmental benefits to be gained as well. "We can recycle waste materials into useable materials, and eliminate the transportation costs of moving building materials," she said.

The home-building site is currently open to the public, which can see the printer in action for €2.50 (about $3.50). The entire house will take about three years to finish and will be opened as design museum when it is done. I think they should fill it with nothing but 3D-printed furniture when it's ready!