There are a number of companies and individuals chasing the dream of the 3D printed house, but now a Chinese construction company has unveiled two very large 3D printed buildings which appear to have pushed the technology to the next level.
According to WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co., they've used recycled concrete material to 3D print a pair of enormous structures – one of them an entire, 6-story apartment building – near the Suzhou Industrial Park in eastern China's Jiangsu Province
At approximately 1,100 square meters – or 11,840 square feet – in size, the largest of the 3D printed buildings features pre-fabricated elements created in the company's factory and then shipped to the site for assembly.
The company says the printer used to create the pre-fab pieces is a truly whopping 105 feet long, 33 feet wide and 21 feet tall. It looks a bit like an icing bag used to decorate cakes, and it lays down a cement-like material to do the work of "home framing" from construction and other industrial waste.
Using this proprietary material which includes construction waste such as concrete dust, fiberglass strands, sand and a hardening agent to build walls and ceilings tough enough to withstand earthquake damage, WinSun says the resulting structures are flexible and insulated by their design.
The material used to print the WinSun designs was developed by Chinese firm Systech, which currently holds 50 national patents on the formulation. It's derived from what the company calls GRG, or glass fiber reinforced gypsum board. In the past the material has been used to construct theaters, stadiums and conference halls. WinSun adds that the basic material can also be combined with glass, shells and other substances to output pieces which feature a variety of textures.
Columns and steel rebar are placed within the walls. The CAD designs sent to the printer are made to allow for space for pipes, windows and doors to be added to finish the structures.
The buildings are said to have more than simply the ease and speed of their method to recommend them. WinSun says using 3D printing allows them to save around 60 percent of the materials normally used to build a home. The buildings take fully 80 percent less labor than typical methods use as well.
But speed is undoubtedly a key feature as the company says completing the various elements of the structures takes only 30 percent of the time needed to finish a similar structure using traditional construction methods.
The two buildings, a single-family "villa" and a six-story tall apartment block, are indeed impressive achievements and should serve to accelerate the chase for 3D printed home-building technologies.