AMSTERDAM (AP) — Hundreds of years after wealthy merchants began building the tall, narrow brick houses that have come to define Amsterdam's skyline, Dutch architects are updating the process for the 21st century: fabricating pieces of a canal house out of plastic with a giant 3-D printer and slotting them together like oversized Lego blocks.
Hedwig Heinsman of architect bureau Dus says the goal of the demonstration project launched this month is not so much to print a functioning house — in fact, parts of the house will likely be built and re-built several times over the course of three years as 3-D printing technology develops.
Rather, it is to discover and share the potential uses of 3-D printing in construction by creating new materials, trying out designs and testing building techniques to see what works.
"There's only one way to find out," she says. "By doing it."
She envisions a future in which personalized architecture may be custom-crafted on the spot, or perhaps selected from an online store for architectural designs, downloaded and tweaked.
At the core of the project is a 6-meter (20-foot) -tall printer dubbed the Kamermaker, or "room-builder." It's a scaled-up version of the open-source home 3-D printer made by Ultimaker, popular with hobbyists.