World’s first robotic builder to enter service

3D-print

The world’s first autonomous robotic builder, equipped with a 3D print head capable of free-form printing stone or even concrete, is set to be put into service at the Fab City site in the Netherlands, in a project by BAM and Universe Architecture.

The printing method is comparable to that of an inkjet printer, but instead of putting ink on paper, a bonding liquid of inorganic seawater and a magnesium-based binder is dripped layer by layer on sand that then hardens in any shape as desired.

In the future, it will also be possible to link print techniques involving steel and insulation material.

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The robot will begin with a 1:4 scale version of ‘Landscape House’ – a structural design based on a Möbius strip (a single surface without beginning or end) – which will be constructed using the D-shape printing method pioneered by Italy’s Enrico Dini.

Caterpillar tracks can also be placed under the robot – a function developed in collaboration with robotics firm AcoTech from Eindhoven – to enable it to travel autonomously across the building site.

The site in Amsterdam is a temporary sustainable technology campus that forms part of the global Fab City initiative aimed at developing new urban models for productive and sustainable cities.

The FabCity will contain fifty pavilions, workshops, installations, and prototypes on display, focused on the themes of sustainability and circular economy: production techniques that produce no waste.

The materials being used in Amsterdam occur extensively naturally, and were used by the Chinese many centuries ago for strengthening the Great Wall of China, as well as by the Romans.

Architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars of Universe Architecture noted: “It is fantastic that we have jointly conceived a machine that can make something new. This was much more commonplace for architects during the Renaissance.”

Rutger Sypkens of BAM Bouw en Techniek added: “As well as the form freedom, we are also very much taken by the circular process. Concrete granulate and pre-existing prints can serve as a raw material for the machine at a later stage.”

The 1:4 scale of Landscape House marks represents a major advance towards the commercialisation of 3D printed architecture, and a big step up from the first phase of the project involving a 1:15 scale version presented as a city bench in Amsterdam at the end of 2015.

The next phase is the Fab City structure, which will then be followed by a full-sized house in 2017.

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