May 5, 2014 - Public Design
A Chinese company harnessed 3D-printing technology to build 10 one-story houses in a day — a cheaper, faster and safer alternative to more traditional construction.
WinSun Decoration Design Engineering built the houses in Shanghai using four giant 3D printers, which are each 10 meters (33 feet) wide and 6.6 meters (22 feet) high, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. They produce a mix of cement and construction waste to construct the walls layer by layer, a process much like how a baker might ice a cake.
“We purchased parts for the printer overseas, and assembled the machine in a factory in Suzhou,” WinSun CEO Ma Yihe told the International Business Times. “Such a new type of 3D-printed structure is environment-friendly and cost-effective.”
Each approximately 2,100 square-foot building costs less than $5,000 to construct. The houses’ components are checked for quality as they are being erected because there are no building codes yet for 3D-printing construction in China. WinSun uses a special quick-dry cement to speed up the process.
In addition to decreased construction time, this process also means that construction workers are less likely to be exposed to hazardous materials or work environments. Plus, it’s eco-friendly.
“To obtain natural stone, we have to employ miners, dig up blocks of stone and saw them into pieces,” Ma told Xinhua. “This badly damages the environment.”
The houses WinSun built are fairly simple, but Ma added that he hopes the company’s 3D-printing technology will one day be used to build skyscrapers.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen 3D printing-based construction. Researchers at the University of Southern California developed a 3D printer capable of building a 2,500 square-foot house within 24 hours, using a process called contour crafting. DUS Architects designed a 3D-printed canal house, which is currently under construction in Amsterdam.
“It is an interesting technology,” Derrick Morris, director of construction technologies at Habitat for Humanity, told Mashable. “We’ve been watching this with some interest over the past couple of years. A lot of the time, it’s more about changing the mind of the consumer.”
Prefabrication — when a final product is assembled in a factory before it reaches its final destination — is a process that has been around for decades; however, it is currently being retooled by modern architects and designers. For example, clients can choose a basic template, and customize it however they want. Similar to the 3D-printed construction projects, prefabricated buildings have also proven themselves to be fast, cost-effective options.