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3D Printers Turn Buildings Waste into £100K New Homes

Architectural firms are competing all over the world with their designs for 3D-printed companies, but Chinese company WinSun has moved past the design stage and actually produced such dwellings.

In March 2014, WinSun claimed to have printed 10 houses in 24 hours, using proprietary 3D printing technology. The builds consisted of an industrial waste and ground construction blend mixed with quick-drying cement and a special hardening agent. The total cost for all ten buildings was just £3,100, a minute fraction of the cost for a typical build. Now WinSun has produced a five-storey apartment building and a villa measuring 11,840 square feet, complete with interior and exterior decorations. The apartment complex is the world’s highest 3D printed building, and the villa is the first of its class to be created using this technology.

Both buildings are on display at Suzhou Industrial Park. The printer used to produce the homes is 500ft long, 32ft wide, and 21ft tall. A mixture of glass, steel, cement, and construction waste is sprayed on in layers until a thick wall results. The parts are fabricated in large pieces at WinSun's facility. Then the structure is assembled on-site, with steel reinforcements in order to meet building standards. WinSun, which has been in business for 12 years, holds 98 construction material patents and has a long history of innovation in 3D printing technology.

 

Structural Insurance Defects

Ten years ago the company developed an automatic material feeding system and spray nozzle for 3D printing. In 2008, it printed an actual building wall. At a recent press conference WinSun CEO Ma Yi He attributed the company's success to its innovative and leading-edge techniques. He added that waste from recycling can produce a lot of carbon emissions, but 3D printing allows that waste to be converted into new building materials. Construction workers are less likely to come into contact with hazardous materials. The 3D printed villa was specially produced for well-known Taiwanese real estate company Tomson Group.

The total cost for printing the building was over $161,000 US (£105,000), and 10 sets have been pre-ordered already. The company has not revealed the maximum size of the pieces it can print, but photographs published on its website suggest quite a sizeable output capability. Using a CAD drawing as a template, a computer-controlled extruder arm lays out the material. The building walls are hollow when printed, with reinforcement provided by an internal zigzagging pattern. The hollow space is also intended to accommodate insulation.

The process limits construction waste by 30 to 60 percent, and cuts down production times by between 50 and 70 percent. and labour costs by 50 to 80 percent. By using recycled materials in this manner, the need for quarried stone and other materials decreases, creating a construction method that is both environmentally sustainable and cost-effective. WinSun hopes to eventually put this technology to use on much bigger constructions, such as skyscrapers and bridges.

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