3D printed plastic house
will be assembled "in a day"


News: London architecture collective Softkill Design has joined the race to build the world's first 3D printed house, announcing plans for a plastic dwelling that could be built off-site in three weeks and assembled in a single day.

ProtoHouse 2.0 by Softkill Design

"It will hopefully be the first actual 3D printed house on site," said Gilles Retsin of Softkill Design. "We are hoping to have the first prototype out in the summer."

Update: read the full interview with Retsin about 3D-printed architecture.

The single-storey Protohouse 2.0 will be eight metres wide and four metres long and will be printed in sections in a factory. The parts will be small enough to be transported in vans and then snapped together on site.

"It would take up to three weeks to have all the pieces fabricated," said Retsin. "Assembly on site is a one-day job, if the site is prepared before hand."

"You don't need any bolting, screwing, or welding on site," he added. "Imagine a Velcro or button-like connection. The pieces are extremely light, and they just kind of click together so you don't need any other material."

A rival 3D printed house project by Dutch studio Universe Architecture was announced earlier this year, but Gilles dismissed its claims. "We actually don't even consider that a 3D printed building because he is 3D printing formwork and then pouring concrete into the form," Retsin said. "So it's not that the actual building is 3D printed."

Softkill Design's proposal is a development of Protohouse 1.0 (shown here), an earlier prototype printed house unveiled at the 3D Print Show in London last October. Instead of solid walls, the original Protohouse featured a fibrous nylon structure based on bone growth.

ProtoHouse by Softkill Design

Above: ProtoHouse 1.0 by Softkill Design, the first prototype of the project

The organic, fibrous form of the prototype led Dezeen readers to compare it to "a dinosaur head made of spaghetti" and "a giant spider cave".

Protohouse 2.0 takes the same approach, with plastic material deposited only where it is needed. "You're aiming to use the smallest amount of material to achieve the strongest structure," Retsin explained. And if you push that through to the extreme  you get something that is extremely fibrous and extremely thin."

ProtoHouse 2.0 by Softkill Design

Above and below: construction concept

Components for the Protohouse 2.0 will be fabricated in laser-sintered bioplastic at existing 3D printing facilities. This method provides better quality and structural integrity than printing on site using traditional materials such as sand or concrete, Retsin believes.

"The printers that you use on site can only print and build something vertically," he said. "So they put one layer on one layer and build up the structure vertically whereas if you print off site you're not operating in that vertical extreme, so you have much more design freedom."

"These highly fibrous structures are only 0.7 millimetres thick," he added. "It's impossible to print those with stone, because there's not enough structure or strength or integrity in sand. In the factory environment you can go into stronger materials like plastics or metals."

ProtoHouse 2.0 by Softkill Design

The build cost of the Protohouse 2.0 is confidential, but Retsin said: "The cost balance of material, time, and logistics in a growing industry means the cost of the Protohouse could be a viable competitor to traditional means of manufacture and build in the relatively near future."

ProtoHouse 2.0 by Softkill Design

In an earlier conversation, Retsin's colleague Aaron Silver told Dezeen that the trend for 3D-printed building is likely to continue. "I think there really is an interesting future for architecture and 3D printing," he said. "You have great cost savings, material efficiency, things like that, which architects are vastly interested in."

See more stories about 3D printing, including our interview with Universe Architecture's Janjaap Ruijssenaars.

Here's some information from Softkill Design:

Protohouse 2.0

Softkill Design, a London based design collective, is working on a second, market-friendly version of the Protohouse.

The Protohouse 1.0 was developed as a research project at the Architectural Association's Design Research Lab, Robert Stuart Smith Studio, and was supported by Materialise. The project is the first to prototype an entirely 3d printed building, including facade, curtains and finishes. Softkill's main objective is to move away from the heavy, compression based printing of on-site buildings, instead proposing lightweight, high-resolution, optimized structures which, at life scale, are manageable truck-sized pieces that can be printed off site and later assembled on site.

Building upon the previous research, the new Protohouse 2.0 is an entirely 3d printed, one-storey, 4x 8m building. It consists of 7 big chunks of laser-sintered plastic, which can be transported to site in a small van. On site, the chunks are designed for assembly and can be fitted without screws or adhesive material within half a day. The hard building structure of the chunks continuously transitions into 3d printed curtain-like material.

In contrast to existing precedents in 3d printing buildings, which all make use of sand or concrete, Softkill has focused it's research on lightweight materials such as bio-plastics. This generates buildings with a previously unseen level of detail, and opens up the possibility of printing all architectural elements, such as structure, furniture, stairs and facade, in one instance.

Instead of building on-site, where there is always the need of a 3d printer larger than the actual building, Softkill's Protohouse is manufactured off-site in a factory environment with highly precise and fast 3d printers. A consistent tectonic strategy of part-to-whole is embedded in the design process from the very beginning.

To harness the possibilities of high-resolution 3d printing, Softkill Design developed a set of algorithms which, similar to bone growth, are able to distribute material where it is needed most. This results in a materially efficient fibrous structure which is at the same time highly intricate and has an ornamental quality. Using the algorithms, Softkill can design the micro-organisation of the material, up to the scale of 0.7 mm.

  • Rob

    Well that's the set design for Prometheus 2 sorted.

  • fme

    Architect: the spider from Lord of the Rings.

  • Munchman

    Actually, I’m quite excited about this. No, I’m not a fan of the spider-web aesthetic, nor am I convinced that 3D printing will really be the paradigm shift it’s being made out to be, but if this project successfully prints a complete house then I for one certainly find that of interest to the architectural world. At least from a research point of view, it’s nice to see some of these previously “paper architecture” projects realised.

  • Desk

    What about the glazing? How do you clean the dust off the walls? They should include woven WCs and woven pipes into the equation and make sure the sewage gets recycled into the fabric like pure nature. The inhabitants should get skinny as well to complete the concept.

  • honorablesamurai

    Love the concept. 3D printing will definitely be a big part of building construction in the future, but I’m not too keen on this spider-web look. Imagine the dust that place will collect, especially on statically charged plastic.

  • Sunimaila Jana

    Actually. I don´t think I would like to live in a brain. Aaaargh!

  • fraperic

    I’m 3D printing a bandwagon if anyone wants to jump on?

  • bonsaiman

    Being a fibre, especially made of plastic, implies in a tensile strength achieved by actually stretching its molecules by physical force after it is extruded. That is what makes a fibre a strong material. Then you build the object with the fibre, generally in a entangled, textile or parallel fashion, which will combine the individual strengths in very strong whole.

    When you print a fibre bit by bit, layer after layer in the final shape, can this be considered a fibre at all? I don’t think so, the same way a picture of a fibre is not a fibre. It seems to me that looking like an entanglement of fibres will not contribute to structural properties as real fibres would do. Am I wrong? Could lightness be better obtained by printing a sponge-like material instead? These are real doubts and I hope experts can shed some light.

  • Colin

    What’s the point?

  • james

    I think this is putting the cart before the horse. What’s the rush to complete an entirely 3D printed home, without considering material performance (not just structural, but thermal, tactile, etc)?

    Softkill addresses the idea of constructability by splitting the assembly into pieces, but I’d like to hear about how the individual components of the modular assembly could be tweaked in performance or materiality to respond to specific situational or regional requirements.

    Also, the assembly seems random. Traditional buildings are separated into different systems not only for ease of assembly, but also because of specific performance requirements. Is this being considered? Finally, how does this touch the ground? It’s not a house if people can’t/won’t live in it.

  • Stucco!

  • Fisherman

    The main image looks like a dead fish head.

  • robert

    “Now where did I put my keys?”

  • Can’t say I’d really like living in that.

  • Alberto T.

    While I appreciate the design intention, I have no respect for bold statements such as “being assembled in one day”. SPAM! Obviosuly that person has never ever assembled anything of that size.

    What about the dramatical building up of tolerances? keystone effect? What about the fact that most 3D printed material do not resist heat or UV (melting, deformations)?

    Interesting AA School DRL speculation – and that’s it. If you do not have the serious finances or large institutional support to develop it further (and show us prototypes) please do not make such bold /marketing statements. Simply be honest/modest. The project has qualities on its own not to be pretentious.

    Dezeen, the first so-called 3D printed house was already spam. There should be a very minimum curation here against marketing statements of such type.

    Once again I like the increase of resolution and design intention.

  • ZJalaska

    Why design something few will like using a technology we should all promote?

  • mert

    Looks like a house made of moulding Weetabix.

  • John

    Is this going to make building cheaper or day-to-day life better? Mmmm, no.

  • I think only the Widow of the Web would find that design homely:

  • young designer

    All they need are some Barcelona chairs and a Keep Calm poster to really drive home this project’s stupidity.

  • MWnyc

    Even if the printed material is strong, it’s so lightweight, how do you keep it from blowing apart in a strong wind? Are the plumbing and electrical wiring printed as well?

  • one

    Looks like a sad future.

  • May

    Looks like mashed-up cobwebs.

  • Ted

    They are trying to make the first 3D printed house, but it won’t be the first 3D printed house that anyone could actually live in. I love daring and innovative designs, but this is just crap. Just from the few pictures, it has countless code violations, and a city inspector would never give it a certificate of occupancy.

    Houses have kitchens and bathrooms and living areas where you won’t get rained on, this is just an art exhibit. The company is Softkill Design. After you fall down those idiotic stairs and break your neck, I would say their company name is appropriate.

  • Concerned Citizen

    “Extremely light”, “connected with Velcro”; sounds like a toy for a tornado.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I thought somebody else already printed a house. It was mentioned the last time a 3D print was proposed here.

  • Drake

    Can everyone please stop experimenting with new ideas and creating conceptual prototypes, all I want to do is live an insignificant life, in a generic house, built and used in a massively unsustainable way. Please don’t make anything I don’t think is aesthetically pleasing, I won’t be able to see past its ugliness, to the sheer magnitude of the technological advances that the concept embodies and promotes. Oh and please Dezeen, don’t make bold “one line” statements to catch my and a lot of other peoples attention, I’ve become awfully sensitive since the internet was invented and I became able to express my opinion publicly.

    As a designer I am very much excited about the prospects of this technology, the boundaries of construction are ever increasing. I can’t wait to design and create a prototype, I just hope my creative thoughts and ideas inspire more thought out criticism. Good work guys.

  • jamie

    Three weeks? And it looks like a spider web? Has no one heard about the 24 hour printed house that looks like a NORMAL house? http://www.psfk.com/2012/08/3d-printed-house-2.ht

  • Denis

    Who wants to live in a plastic house?

  • martijl

    Seems like a perfect house for drug dealers.