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Sustainable architecture thanks to 3D printers

Sustainable architecture thanks to 3D printers
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Floors, stairs, entire buildings built by 3D printers. Smart Regions examines how one Dutch company, with help from the European Cohesion Policy, is using the printing technology to create sustainable building solutions.

Aectual is a Dutch architectural start-up providing creative and sustainable solutions for the construction industry. Holding a 3D printed model, the firm's CEO, Hans Vermeulen highlights the benefits of the technology in terms of its design adaptability.

"There's no sun now, but the sun can go through creating reflection at the inside, but at the same time this digital design can be altered in the computer, based on your geolocation. You can make tailor made design on a mass scale," Vermeulen says.

3D printers create zero waste

Aectual’s total budget is €860,000. Just over 300,000 of that came from the EU's Cohesion Policy. The firm uses three large 3D printers which create zero waste. 15 people currently work at the company. All of them are specialists coming from The Netherlands, but also Italy, Russia, Bulgaria and the U.S.

The company's Head of Robotics Yelle Feringa is in charge of the 3D printers. The robots operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Actually these robots were sourced from the automotive factory. They are about, I think, 15 or 20-years-old and the computer that is controlling the robot we upgraded... It's usually the robot programmers who "fatigue" rather than the robots, so if they are standing still sometimes it is because of us," he says.

Currently the firm is designing a 3D house for the Bauhaus exhibition in Berlin which is celebrating the centenary of the influential German art school.

Aectual's other area of expertise is its bio-based floors. It was precisely for this reason that the Doen foundation, which supports some 270 NGO’s, and is a major promoter of sustainable development, chose to use Aectual's 3D floors.

Esther Wubben, from Dutch Charity Lotteries sums up by saying: "The building world is responsible for 40 percent of the CO2 emissions and with the Aectual floor there's no waste at all. You remember the old Romans and Greeks they have stone floors and they are still there. So it's a very long lasting floor."

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