Twente Additive Manufacturing is a 3D printed concrete startup with a presence in the Netherlands and Canada. They sell a range of concrete printers and also print on demand for projects that make sense logistically. TAM’s next high profile construction 3D printing project is the Fibonacci House.
Their facility in BC, Canada is on a beautiful lakeside plot of land that has tons of room for growth. Jim Ziemlanski, the founder and tech lead is regularly printing out new objects for client projects and company projects to be placed permanently on facility grounds.
They print in 2 main classes of material, one with an accelerate mixed in at the nozzle of the printer and the other more akin to a regularly mixed concrete that is strong enough to support subsequent layers on top of itself before fully curing. With the accelerate, Twente is able to print overhanging structures and bridge gaps that regular concrete would require complex formwork to build. The drawback of the accelerate mix is cost.
Currently, they are working on the finishing touches of a 3D printed house they call the Fibonacci House because it conforms to the Fibonacci sequence in its spiral form. This seemingly small structure will have 2 lofted rooms for the ability to sleep 4. All of the printed parts have been completed but they are now waiting on the local contractors to finish up details like the ceiling, windows, and utilities although the rough-in for plumbing and electric is complete.
Many other practical objects have been printed around the facility including many staircases, storm drains, foot-bridges and various pieces of furniture.
In a collaboration with the local rotary club, Twente built out a massive 3D printed outline for an anatomically correct Kootenay Salmon that will serve as the mulch barrier for a new playground in the local town. To make that intricate and particularly unique form with traditional concrete would require a level of craftsmanship and detail that would take an absurd number of man-hours. This was the kind of project that only made sense to do with 3D printed concrete. As with other innovations, first the places with the biggest opportunity will reap the benefits of the new technology. Right now that opportunity is in unique one of a kind objects or buildings.
Innovation is at the core of the additive manufacturing industry as a whole so it’s no surprise that Twente is already building their next generation of the printer. To date, most of their printing has been done from a facility as opposed to on-site printing. Printing in their facility gives them more control over their environment without having to build a temporary structure around the printer on-site. Despite all the benefits printing in their facility has to offer, they are building a mobile printing apparatus with the operational codename ‘Tilikum’. Tilikum is a massive robotic arm from ABB attached to a gantry system that is welded to a trailer so that the entire thing can be towed to any printing destination.
President of the company, Ian Comishin is regularly contacted by people who are excited about 3D printing, he has noted that especially among people looking for 3D printed homes too many people want it to be the cheap option when in reality it is a valuable option because the designs you can achieve with printing are far more cost-friendly than their handmade counterparts. If you just want a regular rectangular house and you’re looking for the cheapest option, maybe 3D printed houses aren’t for you. That being said, in the coming years as the technology expands and architects get more proficient at designing projects to be print-friendly the value proposition will continue to grow. Generally, with economies of scale, the prices of a commodity can go down so hopefully as printable concrete is made in bigger and bigger batches, the price can come down accordingly as the world begins devoting more resources to this exciting field full of potential.
I’ll be releasing a series of videos from their projects and facility including print footage, shots of Tilikum, and a tour of the Fibonacci house under construction. You can also subscribe to my YouTube channel, where the first video of my Twente Additive Manufacturing series will be posted on Friday.