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Rotterdam uses 3D printing for construction - costs are reduced with 70%.

Through the introduction of 3D printing, the construction industry has changed. 3D printing makes construction processes and projects a lot more efficient and streamlined. One example of this is the way in which renovation work on old, historic buildings is carried out.

The traditional equipment required to carry out such construction work is expensive and there are many problems that can arise along the way. However, a renovation project can take on a completely new identity thanks to the help of the T3000 and T3500 which are able to 3D print large structures. The ability to create large objects using 3D printing will simplify construction projects. This means that the once large construction projects will become slightly smaller and easier. Goodbye to cranes lifting heavy parts, goodbye to surprise delays due to bad weather conditions. And hello to renovation the right way.

“The 3D printed constructions have exceptional strength, durability and they are lightweight, making them far more durable than the original gutters”

The original old gutter
The original old gutter
Tractus3D engineer is montaging the 3D printed ornament
Installation of the large 3D printed construction
Detail of the 3D printed ornament
Detail of the 3D printed ornament
The 3D printed ornament is shown on the building
The 3D printed ornament shown on the building

Challenge and solution

During the Second World War, Rotterdam was heavily damaged from bombing and the damage has left scars on the city that can still be seen today. Over the years, a lot of the architecture has become worn and weathered and often they have had to be disregarded as irreparable. Despite this, the historical buildings and their architecture still require maintaining on a regular basis so that they remain safe and continue to look appealing. This is where Woonstad Rotterdam, an innovative housing cooperation, takes it upon themselves to carry out restoration work that really brings these building back to life.

They soon came across stumbling blocks as part of the project involved renovating two 19th Century building on the famous ‘Oude Binnenweg’ street. The restoration project involved them having to preserve the original character and attempt to bring it back to how it once looked. The redevelopment was not straight forward as their job was to deal with one of the missing characteristic elements, which was nine drains that helped to support a roof gutter that stood at an impressive 10 metres in height.

The company took it upon themselves to carry out a high level of research and in speaking with experts from a wide range of industries, they attempted to find a solution that helped them to identify the materials that would work best to replicate the large ornaments that once stood in place. Their research took them to laboratories and meetings with specialists in many different areas, as they required a material that was resistant to weathering and would not corrode like other material. They found this was often a difficult task and that the cost were exceptionally high. However, they then discovered the possibilities of 3D printing for the construction industry. 3D printing the large structures could help them bring the building back to its former glory at a cost that was right with materials that simply worked.

Less building time and costs

Any restoration work requires Woonstad Rotterdam to meticulously plan the project systematically, taking into account the time it takes. However, 3D printing is quick and inexpensive which makes planning timeframes and budgets so much easier.

3D printing the large constructions also saved them a significant amount of money on the cost of supplies. This is because the technology is becoming mainstream and the materials are becoming more and more readily available, meaning that the price is becoming lower.

Replica ornament from real to distinguish?

Working on any construction project such as this and using advanced technology such as 3D printing requires the right materials and this has often been a challenge. However, in recent years, new materials have become available that enabled Woonstad Rotterdam to create the large pieces.

The owner of Z3Dlabs, Zerafet Tenwolde had the task to look for the best material available to create replica ornaments. Her search enabled her to identify that she could print the ornaments using the same materials used in the manufacture of soft drink bottles also known as PET. As a result of this, the ornaments are created with an exceptional strength, durability and they are lightweight, making them far more durable than the original gutters, which were constructed using plaster. Of course, plaster is susceptible to damage but the new material is virtually impossible to crack.

One important factor that underpins all of this is the authenticity of the appearance. While it is all well and good using light materials that will stand the test of time, the ornament has to fit in with the design of the building and look virtually the same as the originals. Using PET, it made it possible to recreate the structure and Cardo architect, Bart Van Den Ouden said, “The ornaments are still 9-10 meters high, so you can not see that structure right away. But it has been possible to duplicate the old paint layers in the ornament, making the replicas similar to ornaments manufactured in 1880.’ The result is completely down to the accuracy of the scan and 3D printing.

Therefore, the outcome of the construction project and the use of 3D printing, gave the buildings at Oude Binnenweg 109-110 its historical character and appearance. However, the ornaments are more about the appearance as opposed to doing the job they were once put in place to do, which was to support the façade.

Dealing with the issue of safety

The project had to take into consideration safety when it came to attaching heavy ornaments to the roof buildings that sat at a considerable height. The ornaments had to be fixed in place in the correct way as they sat above a busy pavement and so, should anything go wrong, the outcome could have proved fatal. However, 3d printing the large stuctures avoided this issue because the objects weight a fraction of the original models and so, were simple to fit onto the building and would remain safe to the passing public below.

The future of 3D printing in construction is exciting

3D printing is opening doors for Woonstad Rotterdam as it is now offering them flexibility and versatility – something they have never had before as they have always had to work with difficult materials. 3D printing large structures now gives them the ability to make changes in a cost efficient way. They now have the ability to change the way in which they work and they also have the ability to increase their output.

They have a wide and varied portfolio within Rotterdam but the future is every bit exciting. Initially, the use of 3D printing in construction was one big experiment but currently, satisfaction levels are extremely high.

Tractus3D large size 3D printer 3d printing a ornament

Benefits

  • No more compromises on model detail or accuracy
  • Reduced costs
  • Increased iterations
  • Easy to repeat results, with virtually no modelmaking labor required
  • The 3D printed ornaments are far more durable then the original gutters
  • They weight a lot less then the original models

Results of 3D printing in construction

The original ornament that will be replaced by a 3D printed ornament

Competition

Woonstad Rotterdam has an advantage over its competitors as it can recreate large objects that are no longer in production with the use of a 3D printer.

Employee finishing the large 3D printed gutter

Confidentiality

It is easy to repeat the results without having to put your trust in the possibly unsteady hand of manual labor.

Tractus3D big size Delta printer 3d printing a part of an ornament

Time

The full manufacturing is kept in-house, saving a lot of time. 3D printing is quick which makes planning timeframes so much easier.

3D printed ornaments

Errors

Sculpting ornaments by hand requires great precision and does not leave any room for error. With 3D printing, construction changes can be made more easily and against a lower cost.

The Tractus3D big delta 3D printer 3D printing an ornament

Costs

Ornaments no longer have to be handcrafted, significantly reducing labor costs as well as material costs (since it is made of plastic). They now can 3D print large objects directly on the construction site.