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3D printer constructs 10 buildings in one day from recycled materials

Lucas Mearian | July 3, 2014
The 3D printers could someday be used to build skyscrapers from the recycled materials of other buildings.

A Chinese company has become the first to construct multiple buildings using 3D printers that extrude recycled building materials at breakneck speed.

Using four huge 3D printers, Yingchuang New Materials Inc. was able to print the shells of 10 houses in 24 hours and at a cost of only about $5,000 per building.

The 3D printed buildings will be used as offices at a Shanghai industrial park.

The printers, supplied by the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co., are 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide and 132 feet long.

Like their desktop counterparts, the construction-grade WinSun 3D printers use a fused deposition modeling (FDM) technology to deposit materials one layer at a time like squeezing frosting from a pastry bag.

Yingchuang New Materials
Yingchuang New Materials used a 3D printer to make everything on this building but the roof. The building was constructed in a factory and then assembled on site. (Photo: Yingchuang New Materials)

A computer using a CAD design controls a mechanical extruder arm to lay down the concrete, which is treated with special hardeners so that each layer is hard enough to support the next as the machine moved back and forth.

The buildings are constructed in parts inside Yingchuang New Materials' factory, one wall at a time, and then joined together at the build site.

Yingchuang New Materials
A closer look at the walls as they're being lowered into place shows the many layers from the 3D printing process. (Photo: Yingchuang New Materials)

The Yingchuang factory and research center, a 33,000 square foot building, was also constructed using the 3D printing manufacturing technique. It only took one month to construct, according to Ma Yihe, the founder and president of the company.

Yingchuang is not the first organization to use 3D printing to create structures, even if it is the first to prove the technique for constructing multiple buildings in a single day.

Several years ago, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) also demonstrated 3D printing techniques to construct entire buildings in less than a day.

As outrageous as it sounds, such machines can already extrude concrete walls with internal reinforcement fast enough to complete the shell of a 2,000-sq. ft. house in under 20 hours.

Contour houses
An example of a non-traditionally shaped home created with Contour Crafting. (Source: ContourCrafting.org)

The robotic extruding method, called Contour Crafting, is comparable to its smaller 3D desktop printer counterparts in that it takes its orders from CAD software, which stores and executes the architectural designs. The designs can be customized on a construction site even as work is underway.

 

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