I had a great time speaking with Ian Comishin and Jonathan Ladouceur, the President and Head of Engineering from Twente Additive Manufacturing. In the very beginning of our discussion they even gave a quick virtual tour of their facility and showed a project that they were working on just minutes before our call. The tour uniquely includes a look at their 9-axis printer, many companies keep the details of their mechanical tech under wraps so it is great for people to be able to see what the large concrete printing apparatus looks like. We also get to see the beautiful surrounding Canadian landscapes and some other outdoor structures they have printed.
The project they are currently working on involves printing objects that have increasing vertical angles. They achieve this by increasing the height of the printed bead of concrete on the right side of the wall without increasing the width. Achieving a quality finish with so many variables at play is a challenge that they seem to have beaten. Twente additive manufacturing has consistently been pushing the limits of their print technology. They have even printed the formwork for the slab that they are now building a house on.
When asked where Ian sees Twente fitting into the 3CDP industry he said that he wants to help other people that need 3DCP tech figure out how to make it work best for them. For example, he is sitting on a staircase that he printed but if there was a company that specializes in staircases, he would be happy to get them set up with the tech to print custom staircases.
Ian and Jonathan were very transparent in discussing some of the challenges that they have faced in their projects. The two have been working on the same teams for many years at this point. They both seem to agree with me that 3D printed buildings should leave some of the exposed layers as a demonstration of the tech but there are many people that would prefer a smooth traditional looking finish.
About halfway through we get to talking about permitting and regulations. Currently printed elements can be used as a facade but not as the structural support of a building. In order for structural engineers to recognize the structural properties of a printed element they need to basically build 2 houses any time they want to print 1 because one house needs to be destroyed to demonstrate that it is strong enough to be valid. Of course every place will have different details and specifics when it comes to municipalities and regulations.
Down the line, Twente hopes to build the biggest printer in the world somewhere in Europe. Currently they are looking for partners or clients to help them achieve this goal over the next 18-24 months. Jonathan even specified that their printer will be able to print onsite and offsite. There are many was to segment companies in this sector and Twente does their best to fit into all of them, they use both gantry and robotic arm printers, single material and dual material printers, the list goes on.
I am sure we will see many more exciting developments in the 3DCP space from Twente Additive Manufacturing if you are interested in the details you can listen to the zoom call with the virtual tour that we recorded and put on YouTube.