Interview: 3D Print Canal House


Tosja Backer is the Expo-Manager at the 3D Print Canal House. It is one of the first houses to be printed with a 3D printer. With Smart Cities Consulting (SCC) she talks about achievements, difficulties and prominent guests.

(c) DUS Architects
Tosja Backer (c) DUS Architects

SCC: “Tosja Backer, the 3D Print Canal House is a research project by Hedwig Heinsman and Hans Vermeulen from DUS Architects. About one year ago, you started with the printing progress. What did you learn in this year?“

Backer: “We have tried a lot of different materials and a lot of different construction techniques and we have been building out in the open. We have been able to receive immediate feedback from the public, from our team and from our partners. We definitely learned, that ‘learning by doing‘ is a very valuable approach. I would say, that is our greatest conclusion.“

SCC: “What are the downsides of such a ‘learning by doing‘ approach?“

Backer: “It is very different from standard building processes. Our work is mainly based on ongoing research. So, all the time we have to alter the process. Where you normally are able to consult specialists and handbooks,  this is all based on our own experience.“

(c) Martin de Bouter
The 3D printer “Kamer Maker” from above (c) Martin de Bouter

SCC: “You were granted a three year time frame for the project. What will happen when you complete the time frame in march 2017?“

Backer: “I don’t know (laughs). We have a prognosis but we hope that this is going to be a growing building site, where the process is evolving naturally and different partners from various sectors will continue to cooperate on researching 3D-printing architecture. We definitely don’t think that this is going to stop after this project.“

New projects worldwide

SCC: “3D-printing is on the march worldwide. The architecture bureau ‘Foster & Partners‘ announced, that it is working on commercial concrete-printing and the Chinese company ‘WinSun‘ already printed concrete buildings. How is this affecting your project?“

Backer: “First of all, we think that this is great. Now, there is a global awareness. It is incredible how fast things are going. When we started with this idea, people thought that this would not be going to happen. Now, which is only a year down the road, it is happening all over the place. It also made us very conscious about how we can distinguish ourselves and what makes our project unique. We really focus on new bio-based materials, freedom of form and design.”

(c) Marije van Woerden
The construction site (c) Marije van Woerden

SCC: “You opened your construction site to the public last march. How many people are visiting your place now?“

Backer: “We receive more than 1,000 visitors per month now. We have large group visits from companies but also from schools. People from many different disciplines are coming to see what we do. It is funny because we are an architecture firm but somehow we are also a museum.“

A famous Guest

SCC: “Last year, you were already thinking about a bigger printer. When would this one start to print?“

Backer: “It is already here but it is not finished yet. The ‚KamerMaker 2.0‘ is built mostly by one of our partners, ‚Fiction Factory‘. It is able to print about five meters height instead of three. It can print faster and because a lot of things have been automated, we are hoping that it will be able to print stand-alone. So we can leave it printing 24/7 which is really a great thing about 3-D-printing.“

(c) Dave de Vaal
US president Barack Obama and mayor of Amsterdam, Eberhard van der Laan (c) Dave de Vaal

SCC: “In March 2014, US president Barack Obama visited the Canal House. What was his comment on your project?“

Backer: “He is a big fan of 3-D-printing and he is also really keen on incorporating it into educational programs. As far as I know, he thought it was a really good initiative.“

SCC: “What are your plans for the near future?“

Backer: “We are assembling the first rooms now. This is really exciting for us. We are also starting to print with the second printer soon. So, we will be able to print a lot more and a lot faster. And we are involving more and more people and partners into this project.“

Tosja Backer is Expo Manager at the 3D Print Canal House. Before that, she worked as a freelance illustrator in the Netherlands. Backer graduated from TU Delft with a MSc. in architecture.

Read how everything started: “The 3D Print Canal House in Amsterdam – Smart Cities Consulting”

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