Aectual launches online architectural 3D printing platform beta at CES 2021

Dutch sustainable architecture company Aectual has announced the global beta launch of its digital 3D printing platform at the virtual CES 2021 technology show. 

Aectual’s ‘XL’ construction system enables it to fabricate customized architectural design elements such as panelling, fixtures or flooring using eco-friendly materials. With the launch of its new online platform, the company is now offering users the chance to utilize the technology, and design unique additive household items ready for order and installation.

“We enable world-class architects, designers and brands to realize their own bespoke designs on-demand, at any scale, in any building and to create truly unique 100% sustainable products, without being slowed down by extensive prototyping,” commented Aectual’s Co-founder and CCO Hedwig Heinsman. 

Aectual’s XL 3D printing process

Based in Amsterdam, Aectual is a 3D printing firm that specializes in making tailor-made architecture more accessible to designers. As well as providing its clients with increased design flexibility, the company also aims to make construction more sustainable, via the deployment of its proprietary robotic printing process. 

Aectual’s 3D printing system is based on a robotic arm that has six degrees of directional freedom, as well as the ability to move freely between these axes, with a range of 360°. By operating four of these devices together, the firm is able to print over an area of 500 sq. ft, yielding large-scale objects and huge singular prints. 

In addition to providing scalability, Aectual’s process is compatible with a unique plant-based bioplastic that it developed alongside Henkel. Sourced from natural linseeds, the polymer can be recycled up to seven times, enabling the firm’s production method to produce less waste than other construction techniques.

In the past, Aectual has demonstrated the capabilities of its platform by 3D printing bespoke floors for the Salone del Mobile in Milan and Schiphol Airport, but it’s launch at CES takes things in a new direction. Rather than fabricating one-off pieces, the firm is now offering its technology as an on-demand service via a new online hub. 

The Aectual XL 3D Printing Robot. Photo via Aectual.
Aectual claims that its XL system (pictured) produces less waste than conventional customized construction processes. Photo via Aectual.

The architectural one-stop shop 

At launch, Aectual’s new website features twelve signature products that users can tweak and personalize to suit their own taste. Although these initial options may sound limited, they include a range of subsections ranging from household furniture to outdoor canopies, that can each be fabricated and shipped in just six weeks. 

The platform itself includes an accessible, customizable design dashboard, through which users can either upload their own models, or select and modify an existing product to their liking. Once ordered, Aectual then works with its partners Arup and ABB Robotics to build, ship and install these client creations quickly and efficiently. 

Aectual claims that its design-to-delivery process reduces the cost of custom-made architectural products by 50%. At time of writing, the firm’s pre-fabricated decorative pieces such as room dividers, table screens and planters start at €500, while all-new designs will set customers back at least €200 per square meter. 

Aectual is currently inviting AEC-industry professionals to participate in the enterprise beta version of the platform, and interested parties can sign up here.

Scaling additive in construction 

Although Aectual isn’t initially offering to fabricate entire buildings via its new website, it has achieved this before on a one-off basis, and the firm could choose to add prefab houses to its service in future. 

Other companies such as construction start-up Mighty Buildings, have launched with a ‘production-as-a-service’ business model, that offers 3D printed ‘house kits’ to clients. The firm claims that these 865 to 1440 sq. ft structures, are 45% cheaper to buy than traditional homes. 

Elsewhere, the German-based PERI Group has begun to 3D print a three-storey commercial apartment building. While the house itself has been deemed a ‘world’s first’ by the company, COBOD’s well-established technology is behind the production process, and it’s being built as a demonstration of its capabilities. 

Similarly, ICON is one of the industry’s best-known construction companies, and the company once fabricated an entire housing community in Latin America. As opposed to Aectual, ICON has opted to commercialize its Vulcan 3D printing technology, rather than providing a client-facing manufacturing service. 

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Featured image shows Aectual’s XL 3D printing robot. Photo via Aectual.