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Why 3D Printing is Important to Smart Cities

IMG_5872 At the recent event in Amsterdam, which gathered more than 450 people from various areas (consultants, creative artists, managers, technological engineers, urban planning, architects, administrators, entrepreneurs and politicians), the final half of the second day was dedicated to the thematic excursions which served to demonstrate examples of good usage, solutions and innovations taking place in the Dutch capital. I chose the visit to the giant 3D printer, main protagonist in the Open Source 3D Print Canal House program, which proposes to build a complete house in three years using the three dimensional printer. Yes, it is true that the project earned fantastic notoriety due the recent visit from the president of the USA. Obama is an enthusiast of 3D printing and in his recent visit to Europe he made it a point to include the 3D Print Canal House in his itinerary. That same fact was referred to in the beginning of our conversation with our spokesperson as she mentioned the fact that the space isn't very large (on the contrary, it is small) and the presidential entourage demanded an endless number of tight safety protocols. And if the project headquarters is in an adapted container where a multi-disciplined and committed team works, the giant printer is also placed in a maritime vertical container. After being built, this printer became one of Amsterdam's main attractions. And if normal 3D printers already raise a lot of curiosity and attraction, imagine one that prints 3 meter high truly impresses. The musicality of the printer when printing takes us back to a time in which such an invention existed only in science fiction movies. And maybe that is why we have such a large curiosity in this type of invention, because it transports us to a new world and places our creativity and human engineering in perspective. It makes us dream that nothing seems impossible.  

Open Source Universal  

The 3D Print Canal House project is a serious case of good management. One of the founders, the architect Martine de Wit of the DusArchitects firm, humbly confesses that they were not expecting such excitement over a crazy idea from a handful of people, who only 3 or 4 years ago had had run-ins with the authorities for installing "creative works of art" in the center of the city without authorization. Martine tells us how her public architectural firm, mainly dedicated to the city, saw the first 3D printers working and immediately had the initiative to buy one. After that, creativity did the rest. It was only a small step from playing around to the creation of original objects, art works and utensils. Today, there is an entire community of creative artists (architects, designers, artists, etc.) who contribute to this open project. They contribute with creations that anyone can download and print in any part of the world. As long as they have a 3d Printer, of course. When Martins and her companions idealized this Utopian project (at that time) of building a real size house with a 3D printer, no one expected that after all these years that dream would be so close to coming true. And how did it come true? Because those that believed in it contributed in a collaborative, passionate and committed way to the cause. From the creators that organized all the communication and image of the project, to the architects that designed the pieces of architecture for the house, even the computer techs, developers and Ultimaker engineers that developed the printer in a disproportionate and functional size in order to build the house. This is what 3D printing represents: Unity and sharing; Knowledge, ideas and solutions. That is why Martine and her team continue to work, day after day on this project, now with investigators from universities and laboratories, in order to develop a raw material more adequate and perfect for a house and for structures larger than champagne glasses or dishes. This project in particular and 3D printing in general are a practical intense creative laboratory in organizations, companies and cities. Every city should have a giant printer working around the clock, building bridges of knowledge, of ideas and of projects. A lighthouse of what's ahead: Teleportation, time travel, intergalactic leaps or a fountain of youth. A 3D printer allows us to open our mind and dream. Even to dream of a perfect city that does not yet exist. Maybe it will even help build it. Literally.