For those who have visited, it’s slightly difficult to pinpoint exactly what makes Amsterdam such an attractive city. No matter how you describe it, though, few cities are capable of melding that old European charm with the attributes of a modern metropolis quite like Amsterdam can. It should come as little surprise then, that the city is also a hub for some of the most cutting-edge architects and designers of today – many of whom explore future technology along the streets and canals of this bustling, modern city.
Icon of Amsterdam
More recently, multidisciplinary Amsterdam design firm DUS Architects turned their attention to one of the most iconic structures in Amsterdam – the canal house – with the goal of 3D printing an entire canal house as an example of how new digital fabrication techniques can lead to affordable tailor-made architecture worldwide.
While it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of 3D printing, DUS spent months researching larger issues and opportunities to improve the building industry. Particularly, they found that good quality housing is not available or accessible to many people – and when it is, it is often standardized and based on mass-produced elements from distant factories. Needless to say, the current solutions for affordable housing are based on old supply-chain structures that are far from being environmentally friendly or practical for future generations. Similar to how 3D printing offers the benefit of a distributed manufacturing network where objects can be created locally and on-demand, DUS believes that the digitization of these housing structures provides the solution to the problems they explored.
The 3D Print Canal House project kicked off in 2014 and will showcase an array of building products that are each created using the latest innovations in shape, structure, and materials. Designed to be an open exhibition for both the DUS and the public to further explore how digital fabrication can lead to affordable tailor-made architecture, it is also the perfect example of how design, innovation, sustainability and new architecture concepts come together against a backdrop of some of the most iconic architecture of the 17th-century.
Although the project started as a research and development project, it has become a permanent installation at Asterweg 49 in Amsterdam with construction for the main structure expected to begin in the spring of 2017. For the final structure, three types of building products are currently being developed: full prints (using only 3D printed material), concrete systems (made with 3D printed molds as casts), and hybrid prints (3D prints combined with other materials). All ensure a total form-freedom and endless possibilities to make variations. The final structure will include 3D print workshop areas, XL 3D print manufacturing, lab areas, event spaces, a café and other interactive elements.
Of course, undertaking the world’s first-ever 3D printed and full-size canal house is no easy chore – both from production and computing standpoints.
Designing and Printing a Canal House
To design the house, the team turned to Lenovo for their ThinkStation P500s and ThinkPad mobile workstations – both powered by Intel Xeon processors – to provide them with the enormous computing power that the project required. Along with the unprecedented storage and memory capacity that the workstations offered, the team made extensive use of Lenovo’s Flex technology to power interconnectivity and network performance. For rapid prototyping, the DUS team created two gigantic, on-site printers capable of printing elements as large as 2 x 2 x 5 meters (6 ½ x 6 ½ x 16.4 feet). Unsurprisingly, with one of the largest build volumes of any 3D printer around the world, there were many hardware aspects to evaluate – both in visualizing the finished parts and developing the custom tools to create them.
“Multiple screens allowed us to capture the scale of the project and visualize all the different parameters that play a part, such as structure, form, and current building regulations,” says Hedwig Heinsman, cofounder and partner of DUS Architects. “The Lenovo ThinkStations have given us confidence throughout each phase of the project while the mobile Lenovo ThinkPads have provided the ability to collaborate onsite and power the printer output.”
The project is ongoing and, for those who can’t wait to see the finished project, the building site of the 3D Print Canal House is designed as an exhibition and is currently open to visitors who may book a tour, presentation or 3D printing demonstration. DUS will also be opening an all-new on-site summerhouse made from bio-based materials located on the waterfront in the North of Amsterdam, open specially to the visiting public with the aim to show how 3D printing allows us to build faster compared to traditional building techniques.
To find out more about the workstation solutions powering this new movement for the global architecture and building industry, head over to Lenovo.
DUS has partnered with Lenovo to be a part of its “ThinkRevolution” customer engagement program, which celebrates Lenovo workstation users who are using Lenovo technology to revolutionize their industries and make a significant impact in their communities and the world. Lenovo will be working with DUS and other “ThinkRevolutionists” across the world and many industries that embody this spirit – helping them to share their unique accomplishments and promote their important missions to create an even larger impact.