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

The 3D printers could someday be used to build skyscrapers from the recycled materials of other buildings

July 2, 2014 03:12 PM ET

Computerworld - 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 one-room structures in 24 hours and at a cost of only about $5,000 per building. The buildings had to harden at the factory and then be transported and assembled on site.

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

A demonstration of Yingchuang New Materials constructing the walls of a building with its massive 3D printer.

The printers, supplied by WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, 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 in a process that's similar to 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)

Using a CAD design as a template, a computer controls a mechanical extruder arm to lay down concrete, which is treated with special hardeners so that each layer is strong enough to support the next.

The buildings are constructed in parts inside a Yingchuang New Materials factory, one wall at a time. The pieces are subsequently joined together at a construction 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-sq.-ft. 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 successfully demonstrate the technique for constructing multiple buildings in a single day.

Several years ago, researchers at the University of Southern California 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)

Using a robotic extruding method called Contour Crafting, the industrial size printers are similar to their desktop counterparts in that they take orders from CAD software that stores and executes the architectural designs. The designs can be customized on a construction site even as work is underway.



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