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Chinese company uses 3D printing to build 10 houses in a day

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April 23, 2014

Small home constructed from 3D-printed building blocks (Image: Winsun New Materials)

Small home constructed from 3D-printed building blocks (Image: Winsun New Materials)

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This small home may look plain, but it represents a significant achievement in rapid construction. A Chinese company has demonstrated the capabilities of its giant 3D printer by rapidly constructing 10 houses in less than 24 hours. Built from predominantly recycled materials, these homes cost less than US$5,000 and could be rolled out en masse to ease housing crises in developing countries.

If you’ve been to a major city in China recently, you’ll have noticed a theme. Construction is absolutely rampant, with skyscraper after skyscraper going up as cities scramble to deal with a massive population that’s urbanizing at an unprecedented rate.

Outside the major urban centers, there’s still a vast need for quick, cheap housing, and Suzhou-based construction materials firm Winsun has stepped forward with a very impressive demonstration of rapid construction by using 3D printing techniques to build 10 small houses in 24 hours using predominantly recycled materials.

Rather than printing the homes in one go, Winsun’s 3D printer creates building blocks by layering up a cement/glass mix in structural patterns (watch the process here). The diagonally reinforced print pattern leaves plenty of air gaps to act as insulation. These blocks are printed in a central factory and rapidly assembled on site.

Small home constructed from 3D-printed building blocks (Image: Winsun New Materials)

The printer is 6.6 m (22 ft) tall, 10 m (33 ft) wide and 32 m (105 ft) long. Its print head looks somewhat like a baker’s piping gun as it lays out the building mix.

Each small house takes very little labor to assemble, and costs as little as US$4,800. Winsun hopes to make them available for low income housing projects.

Source: Winsun via Wall Street Journal

About the Author
Loz Blain Loz has been one of Gizmag's most versatile contributors since 2007. Joining the team as a motorcycle specialist, he has since covered everything from medical and military technology to aeronautics, music gear and historical artefacts. Since 2010 he's branched out into photography, video and audio production, and he remains the only Gizmag contributor willing to put his name to a sex toy review. A singer by night, he's often on the road with his a cappella band Suade.   All articles by Loz Blain
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20 Comments

A 3-D printed yacht would be a dream come true for many.

thk
23rd April, 2014 @ 07:08 am PDT

This would be a huge benefit, in places where a tornado, hurricane, or other man made disaster hit. People could have temporary housing set up in no time. With them using recycle materials, I'm assuming after the need was over, they could bulldoze them down, and use the material again?

Rusty Harris
23rd April, 2014 @ 07:52 am PDT

I think one could also make a 3-D printed house boat? perhaps a pontoon house boat?

I think that is neat. I think it could help people who want to live in a smaller house. There is a trend among some to live small, small houses to tiny houses.

BigGoofyGuy
23rd April, 2014 @ 08:03 am PDT

Re-using building debris is a huge thing. Imagine the avoided impact and energy spent to gather, transport and dump what conventionally would be deemed as 'waste' somewhere unflatteringly, and use it for something constructive.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
23rd April, 2014 @ 08:53 am PDT

I think 3D printed houses will become the norm, but that will be several decades. This is just the beginning. These "houses" are small and ugly with no plumbing or electrical or HVAC, I would never live in one. But for 3rd world countries it's certainly better then what they are living in now.

Derek Howe
23rd April, 2014 @ 05:02 pm PDT

Still pre-fabbed in a central factory? Not quite roll-up-and-print-it 3D house manufacturing then. For disaster victims, however, a good idea.

The Skud
23rd April, 2014 @ 08:51 pm PDT

Surely the plumbing and wiring can be easily added within a second inner lining to the main structure? Can be pre-fab'd in large sheets and simply joined up on site. Similar to the plush German 'huffhaus' method.

JPAR
24th April, 2014 @ 01:31 am PDT

This is great!

I'm in New Zealand and this kind of thing would be *very* useful down in Christchurch as they rebuild after the 2011 quakes. They are making progress down there but it is *slow*.

The Japanese would have got a few truckloads of these 3d printers after a quake and would have a city pretty much rebuilt in a year or so. A pity that Christchurch has been so slow with its rebuild.

I believe that the councils of every city in NZ should be required to put aside "x" thousand acres of land outside their towns for emergency housing. (This land could be used for other purposes e.g. farming - in the meantime but would be used for housing in a major emergency). If this were done (and if a few 3d printers were bought) then a place like Christchurch would be rebuilt in no time!

*So what* if the hastily-built structures had a slight lean on them or whatever? They would still be functional. Simple, basic-but-effective housing for people to stay in while they got their lives back together.

mooseman
24th April, 2014 @ 02:00 am PDT

I'm not sure about that 2nd paragraph. No doubt China is building at an amazing rate - but I was in Fuzhou not long ago and there are hundreds (if not thousands) of new high-rise towers of flats that are completely empty of residents. It seems they keep building them but for some reason (price, perhaps?) they aren't being occupied. It's almost creepy, passing these ghost developments one after the other along the highway like the backdrop of some distopian movie. Whatever the reason, this not capitalism as we (westerners) know it, it's something else - perhaps something unique to modern China. No banks in the USA, Europe, Singapore, Hong Kong, or Taiwan would (or would be able to) float the loans for such vast tracts of housing that is built up and then just sits there, empty.

REHalliburton
24th April, 2014 @ 02:51 am PDT

Of course we forget we actually need the 3D printer, tons of concrete and glass, trucks to deliver them, oh and a crane that can lift them, along with an army of day laborers to put them together...all without plumbing and electricity....yup! Looks like another winner from China!

Martha Teaches
24th April, 2014 @ 05:32 am PDT

if they are making the same house over and over, why a printer?

why not just make molds of the different blocks?

wle

Larry English
24th April, 2014 @ 08:24 am PDT

That's nice, with the applied tech and recycled materials and all.

But actually those same simple designs could be built even better and cheaper with compressed earth block, which requires a lot less invested energy, is somewhat labor intensive (good for job creation, that is), and certainly safe, fireproof, pest proof, wind resistant, and thermally efficient.

flylowguy
24th April, 2014 @ 08:41 am PDT

I can see where a reduction in materials is possible. However as a construction technique I really don't see where this has any advantage over `tilt up` construction processes.

JohnMc
24th April, 2014 @ 09:53 am PDT

Interesting.

I wonder what the R value is of this wall, as it looks like a lot of thermal bridges. And cement is fairly energy intensive material with a low R value.

The article mentions nothing about its costs of operation-the heating, cooling of this home.

Although an interesting use of robotics and waste materials, think its important to look at all aspects of housing (energy required for operation embodied energy, weight, etc) before decisions are made to move forward with this concept.

ADVENTUREMUFFIN
24th April, 2014 @ 10:25 am PDT

This isnt a house, its a garage with a glass front. $5,000 is just about what it would cost in lumber.

Philip Lester
24th April, 2014 @ 10:36 am PDT

The enormous advantage of this over tilt-up and other pre-fab solutions is the incredible customizability. A whole neighborhood can be constructed with everything but a cookie cutter look. Customization can occur right up to the moment of printing. I think this is huge.

High rise, multi-family, highly heterogeneous designs are also nicely facilitated. Just imagine New Kowloon City built this way. Just kidding.

DonGateley
24th April, 2014 @ 10:51 am PDT

News flash:

A 3-D printer making bricks is not going to ultimately be any different than standard production methods have been for thousands of years.

Making a brick is easier than making houses,

once you're set up for it.

Griffin
25th April, 2014 @ 05:37 pm PDT

@Derek Howe In that guy's mind people in 3rd world countries live inside caves

ビットル ソーザ
26th April, 2014 @ 11:19 pm PDT

Nice real-world application of additive-creation of these structural blocks for modular building. Although put together similarly to tilt-up or other prefab methods - this certainly qualifies under the generic 3D-Printing moniker and much can be made of the technique in the future.

Note for those commenting about lack of HVAC, plumbing, electrical, etc...these 10 are not 'houses' for living - the video mentions these as onsite 'offices at a high-tech industrial park.' Even with that, they'll surely require more fit-out onsite.

Still - very flexible possibilities now that the machine is built and working. Will look forward to seeing what they do with it next.

RSandman
12th May, 2014 @ 11:46 am PDT

If hit by an earthquake how will it do will the bricks kill - do they float?

Madeleine McJones
25th September, 2014 @ 09:32 am PDT
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