Because replicating Yoda busts and action figures just isn’t enough, the race to produce the first ever 3D-printed livable building is on — and the winner could be a house as innovative as it is scary.
Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars appeared to be the frontrunner with his trippy, Labyrinth-looking, Mobius-strip inspired house, but a relative newcomer, London’s Softkill Design, thinks its own prototype is more deserving of the honor.
“We actually don’t even consider [the Möbius-strip design] a 3D printed building because [architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars] is 3D printing formwork and then pouring concrete into the form,” said Softkill’s Giles Restin. “So it’s not that the actual building is 3D printed.”
Their answer is ProtoHouse (a model of which is pictured above), which they’ve described on their website as such: “The Softkill house moves away from heavy, compression based 3D-printing of on-site buildings, instead proposing lightweight, high resolution, optimized structures which, at life scale, are manageable truck-sized pieces that can be printed off site and later assembled on site.”
The construction would come in seven giant chunks of laser-sintered plastic that would take three weeks to print, at which point they’d be trucked to the site and put together in just a day without the need for nuts, screws, nails or adhesive of any kind, thanks to an ingenious cantilevered design.
The process of 3D printing a house is wildly innovative, though not exactly economical. Ruijssenaars’s house is estimated to cost upwards of $5 million, and Fast Company author Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan is the first to admit that erecting a similar structure out of poured concrete would be both cheaper and stronger.
Then there’s the aesthetic of the ProtoHouse, which utilizes “long, fibrous threads of plastic” to achieve a look akin to living inside the deformed, hideous skull of one of Ridley Scott’s famed (and terrifying) Aliens.
But with a design medium as new as 3D printing — a process where a digital rendering of an object is recreated by a special printer that builds it from plastic layer by layer — impractical, out-of-the box, and brilliant applications are just part of the iteration process toward it becoming more mainstream. Already, an amazing 3D pen is making major waves on Kickstarter.
It’s not likely that a ProtoHouse will be coming to your block anytime soon, but its future implications are real — and really exciting.
You might not want an entire extraterrestrial house, for example, but the same process could give rise to a bespoke dining room table or the coolest, and safest, playground around.