Humans Invent spoke to Ruijssenaars to see how such a madcap idea could work in practice.
Using a technique that is not too dissimilar from the Solar Sinter project we featured last year except on a far greater scale, the printer takes sand or crushed rock and binds the desired parts with a liquid agent called ‘structural ink’. This is squirted from hundreds of nozzles in the printer head that travels back and forth across the top of the surface.
It could be possible to print houses for the poor, bringing the printer to a location such as a village
Ruijssenaars says, “The printer is installed on location. The building material, sand or crunched rock, is preferably taken from the ground on location where we want to construct, which makes it nicely sustainable.
“The printer adds in a liquid to certain areas to harden the sand. You can pretty much print any form that is already in the computer and you do this layer by layer. There is still some old fashioned labour involved because you have to add the material with human force.”
After the areas of rock where the ‘ink’ has been applied have set, the rest of the sand is cleared away to reveal, what has already proved to be, incredibly intricate structures as Dini illustrates in the video below.
As indicated by its name Ruijssenaars was keen for the Landscape House to reflect nature in its design. He came to the conclusion that at its essence the landscape has no beginning or end. With this in mind they came up with a design based on the Möbius strip.
Ruijssenaars says, “In making little models of the house, we could not find material with which we could make it look like there was no beginning or ending, whether we made it in lead or in paper, it would always have a start and an ending.”
He continues, “We worked with a mathematician and artist called Rinus Roelofs and he helped us make the model in a few different programmes. Rhino was an important programme for figuring out how it would really work with the right height and thickness of ceilings and floors and stuff like that.”
You can pretty much print any form that is already in the computer and you do this layer by layer
They are still waiting for the building to be commissioned which could cost over €5 million to construct. However, there is some interest from South America. Ruijssenaars says, “A Brazilian guy who owns a big chunk of land next to a national park has made enquiries but the ambition is to construct a few different houses in different landscapes.”
When considering whether 3D printed houses could serve as something more than a novelty in the future, Ruijssenaars believes the technology could help with affordable housing. He says, “It could be possible to print houses for the poor, bring the printer to a location such as a village and see if you can print with the material that you find there. In fact we were approached by a party from South Africa last week who is building houses for the poor. However, I think it is still too expensive at the moment but it could be an interesting future direction.”
Conversely, this technology could also be implemented to create designs that are simply too complicated to build using traditional methods. Time will tell, but once 3D printing on this scale becomes more cost effective it could well replace traditional, labour intensive methods.