Giant 3D printer can print entire rooms

The KamerMaker is "the world’s first movable pavilion that can 3D print entire rooms of plastics."

The giant 3D printer was built to demonstrate 3D printing to the public and to push the limits of the technology. It's running now in a park in Amsterdam, where DUS architects are open four days a week so that "Everyone can watch the live testing of the print techniques and contribute in the building process of the KamerMaker". It's BIG- it can turn out objects measuring up to 6.6' x 6.6' x 12' high, using PLA plastic. " The KamerMaker itself is a pavilion, that can reproduce small pavilions!"

Like so many of the 3D printing projects we have shown on TreeHugger, it is a great demonstration project, showing what the technology can do and where it might be going, but we have a long way to go yet.

At Fast Company, Ariel Schwartz imagines that it might be invaluable in disaster situations. She also notes that " since PLA is biodegradable, everything can be tossed out guilt-free when it’s no longer needed."

Architizer is positively agog:

The KamerMaker aims to create “on demand architecture that responds to local needs”. For example, the printer can create a structure out of recycled materials or even hundreds of temporary structures for those in need of shelter. The printer’s fast and mobile design has the ability to change the way architects work in the future. Designers can sketch and build a room in one day, or even travel the world with the printer and produce pavilions on site. With the KamerMaker, the possibilities for 3D printing seem endless!

It is exciting and it is a great demonstration project. But in the real world, I am not certain that 3D printing out of plastic actually scales. For one thing, PLA is not, as Ariel at Fast Company suggests, "Guilt free." It's made from corn, and raises all the questions that biofuels do, when we turn food into plastic. Elizabeth Royte wrote in the Smithsonian magazine a few years ago, talking to Lester Brown:

Environmentalists have other objections to PLA. Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute, questions the morality of turning a foodstuff into packaging when so many people in the world are hungry. “Already we’re converting 12 percent of the U.S. grain harvest to ethanol,” he says. The USDA projects that figure will rise to 23 percent by 2014. “How much corn do we want to convert to nonfood products?” In addition, most of the corn that NatureWorks uses to make PLA resin is genetically modified to resist pests, and some environmentalists oppose the use of such crops, claiming they will contaminate conventional crops or disrupt local ecosystems. Other critics point to the steep environmental toll of industrially grown corn. The cultivation of corn uses more nitrogen fertilizer, more herbicides and more insecticides than any other U.S. crop; those practices contribute to soil erosion and water pollution when nitrogen runs off fields into streams and rivers.

Making PLA uses less then half the energy of making other plastics, and generates a third of the greenhouse gases. As Royte points out, it has a halo effect. But it is not completely benign, does not biodegrade quickly or easily, and is certainly not guilt-free. It is terrific for a demonstration project like the KamerMaker, but I am not certain that we really want to start making buildings out of it

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