Jan 13, 2016 | By Alec

If you happened to visit the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven in 2014, it would have been impossible for you to miss Project EGG by Dutch innovator and furniture designer Michiel van der Kley. A gigantic room-filling egg shaped dome, it featured amazing 3D bricks contributed by makers from all over the world. More than just being impressive, it also launched Michiel van der Kley’s reputation within the 3D printing community. And now he’s back with an even more innovative and groundbreaking project. Called Project NEXT and expected to run until the end of 2016, Michiel van der Kley has set his sights on one of the most coveted 3D printing solutions: a 3D printable bio-concrete and an accompanying 3D printer capable of making complete architectural spaces.

As Michiel explains, this project is actually closely linked to his successful EGG, which he completed more than a year ago. While very well received, that EGG obviously wasn’t a sustainable living concept because it wasn’t exactly equipped to deal with the weather. “The idea arose to go on with this new way of producing, this time with a material that can maybe resist the weather better than the plastic we used with project EGG,” he says. And thus Project NEXT was born (and named), and has been under development since October 2015.

Now of course several other concrete 3D printers are currently in development, but this particular project is remarkable in a number of respects. Most obvious is their focus on environmentally friendly building materials – something which is set to become increasingly necessary over the coming years. “Much is known already about [bio concrete], but much of it is for us to explore. We have a variety of materials we can work with. Ingredients will or can be limestone, hemp fibers, flax fibers, additives to harden the material and so on. We have already started experimenting and are producing samples at the moment,” Michiel explains.

But the first step is obviously developing a 3D printer, which is also unusual. Instead of taking a cue from other ongoing projects, Michiel and his team wanted to start from the ground up and, through a collaboration with 3D printing experts from Opiliones, have decided to build a Delta 3D printer – whereas most concrete 3D printer concepts essentially consist concrete extruders on large robotic arms. “With the experience and enthusiasm Opiliones has with Delta printers, they are developing a large Delta printer with beautiful add ons. It’s not just a scaled up existing 3Dprinter, it’s an entirely new concept with groundbreaking new extra’s, like the platform that rotates and a nozzle with a diaphragm,” Michiel says of the machine.

However, this is still largely a concept under development. As you can see in the clip below, some initial tests have been done already, though Michiel assumes that fine-tuning will take another couple of weeks. “Nothing is set in stone yet. we do not know what the speed of the machine is, nor what nozzle opening we are going to use or how many layers we can print before the object will collapse,” he says.

If that, and the development of the special concrete is complete, Michiel can finally move on to what he calls original shape language. “3D printing is a new technique. Every technique has its own shape language. Many examples can be given of designs that are inseparably connected to the technique,” he explains. “If there is a shape language belonging to the new 3Dprinting technique, we want to discover it. It is one of the key elements of our research.”

Hopefully, this will lead to new architectural breakthroughs that this 3D printer can shape, and it should be very possible – so many existing designs we find very normal today didn’t came about because of fashion trends, but because of new technologies. “Think for instance of the bent wood chairs of the beginning of the 20th century by the Thonet brothers. Bent wood was crucial for these chairs. You cannot even imagine what these chairs would look without the technique,” the designer explains. Other examples could be the cantilever chairs for the 1920’s and the plastic chairs from the sixties. What new breakthroughs does concrete 3D printing hold?

 

 

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