A house digitally fabricated from the ground up

A team of professionals at ETH Zurich have started work on a house which will be digitally fabricated at nearly all stages of the construction process. The so-called DFAB House is being crafted at the NEST building near Zurich in Switzerland. Designing and constructing it will be a team effort between architects, robotics specialists, materials scientists, structural engineers and sustainability experts, as well as local contractor Erne AG Holzbau. One of the main aims of constructing this house is putting sustainable technologies developed in labs to real-life use to test them.

When completed, DFAB House will measure 2153 sq ft (200 sq m). The ground floor walls are being built by a 6.6 ft (2 m) tall robot with a toolhead that is used to bend and weld 0.24 inch (6 mm) steel rebar to construct the mesh wall framework. This is then filled with a specially formulated concrete which hardens so that it does not leak through the gaps. This process will result in a curved wall, while the robot used to build it is autonomous and moves around on caterpillar tracks. The ceilings of the house will be constructed using a 3D sand printer.

The so-called Smart Dynamic Casting method will be used for the ground floor façade. This is a new slipform construction method which allows for complex structural elements to be built without needing concrete molds. A team of robots will be used to construct the building’s upper floors, using prefab timber elements.

Apart from providing apartments and work spaces for guest researchers and NEST partners, the house will also be fitted with a range of smart home and IoT technologies, including innovative systems that communicate with and learn from each other, as well as other energy control systems. The DFAB House is expected to be finished by the summer of 2018.

Home 3D Printed in 24 hours in Russia

It’s been awhile since we’ve had news of homes being 3D printed, but now Russian engineer Nikita Chen-yun-tai has made quite a breakthrough. The 3D printer he designed has been used to print a home in just 24 hours. His company Apis Cor has successfully constructed a home that is the first in the world to be built using mobile 3D printing technology.

The home is tiny, measuring just 409 sq ft (38 sq m) and was created mostly to showcase the technology. They also wanted to demonstrate just how flexible their 3D printing technology is, since the printer can be used to build a home of any shape. The laws of physics are the only thing dictating the type of buildings that can be made using this tech, which opens up a world of new possibilities in the architectural design sphere.

The whole house was printed in a day and then the printer was simply lifted out by a crane. The concrete walls are layered up, with each of the layers being a kind of horizontal truss, which can then be filled with insulation and the electrical system.

This demo house is small, but the printer itself can be used to build a home measuring up to 1420 sq ft (132 sq m). Costs of such construction are low, coming in at about $25 per sq ft ($275 per sq m), while this whole house cost just $ 10,134 to build. This price includes the wiring, finishing, windows and doors, with the wiring costing $ 242 and the interior finishing coming in at $ 1178.

The company plans to use the tech to build homes in Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa, Australia, and potentially even Antarctica. Their more far-reaching plans also include building the first settlement on Mars. Their goal is to show the world that construction can be fast, sustainable, affordable, reliable and efficient.

A Way to Recycle Non-Recyclable Plastic

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While a large percentage of plastic we use in everyday lives is recyclable, there are still those items that cannot be recycled. These include various potato chip and other quick snack bags, which are needless to say, quite abundant. However the company 3D Brooklyn, which offers 3D printing services, has come up with a great solution to this problem. They have partnered with Terracycle, and together they created a way to use this unrecyclable packaging as raw materials for their printers.

The process starts by Terracycle first turning the collected chips and plastic snack bags into plastic pellets. They then hand these over to 3D Brooklyn that turns them into the ABS PP/PE polymer filament needed for printing.

In this way, those using 3D printers get a cheaper filament they can use in their designs, and the world gets a new way of recycling waste that was not recyclable before. Since one of the main criticisms of 3D printing is the plastic waste it produces, either by failed printings, or those that need a redo. Using already recycled plastic for the process is therefore a great idea, especially if the goal is to create and maintain a sustainable industry when it comes to 3D printing.

A 1-pound spool of filament they create in this way is made up of 45 recycled polypropylene and polyethylene bags. 3D Brooklyn sells this filament for $24 per spool on their website, while they also use this material for projects with their own name on it.

With 3D printing on the rise, I’m sure we’ll see a lot more such ingenious solutions. Let’s hope that this also eventually leads to lower price tags on the actual machines, which is probably the one major obstacle to wider adoption of 3D printing.

The First Freeform 3D Printed House in the World Coming Soon

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The architecture studio Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo (WATG) has drawn up the plans for what they believe will be the world’s first freeform 3D-printed house. The home is called Curve Appeal and it recently won Branch Technology’s Freeform Home Design Challenge. As a result, it will be printed soon. It will also boast of many sustainable features.

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The Curve Appeal Home looks a lot like a cave, though the interior is surprisingly spacious and light-filled. The cave-like form comes from the fact that the home is based on quadrilaterally aligned archways, while the designers opted for a curved form so the home blends more organically with its surroundings. The home also features an interior core, which functions as an abutment.

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The home features a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and living area. The home will be built out of 28 panels which will be produced off-site using a 3D printer. These panels will then be slotted together at the build site, and form the two exterior walls, the roof and the interior core. Once assembled these will be hoisted into place and joined together to form the home.

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To keep the interior temperatures steady and pleasant, they will follow passive home strategies. The windows will be carefully placed to offer a cross draft and there will be other features in place to allow for the interior to stay cool during the summer and warm during the winter. However, since one whole side of the home is to be glazed, this will likely never be a truly passive house. But all the glass does bring the inhabitants closer to nature, which was one of the main aims of this home’s design.

The home will be built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, US, and they will begin 3D printing the panels next year.

A 3D Printed Office Completed in Dubai

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It’s been kind of quiet in the sphere of 3D printing of buildings lately, but the new project recently completed in Dubai definitely shows promise for the concept. The structure is called the Office of the Future and the project was started back in 2015. And now, the world’s first 3D printed office is completed and ready for use.

The Office of the Future has a footprint of 2,690 sq ft (250 sq m), and is located inside the Emirates Towers complex in Dubai. To construct it, they used a large 3D printer, which measures 20 x 120 x 40 ft (6 x 36 x 12 m). It was used to print the building by extruding a cement mixture layer by layer. The project was completed in collaboration with WinSun, a firm that already has successfully printed houses under its belt. They also used several smaller, mobile 3D units to finish the office.

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It took mere 17 days to print the office, but finishing the structure internally and externally took longer. It also seems like the parts needed to construct the office were actually printed off-site, then transported and assembled on-site. While the exact price of this project wasn’t made public, the Dubai government claims that the costs were about half of what they would be had the structure been built using traditional methods.

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Labor costs were also very low, since only a single staff member was needed to monitor the printing process. They did hire seven people to erect the building, as well as ten electricians and other specialists who took care of the technical aspects of the construction.

Dubai and the United Arab Emirates wish to become world leaders in 3D printing, and The Office of the Future is just the first of many projects they wish to tackle. Their plan is to focus on 3D printing in the fields of construction, as well as creating medical and consumer products. It will certainly be interesting to follow their progress.