3D Printed Mansion Completed in 2014 by Winsun.
Having been in the industry for 25 years and pretty much seen everything, it takes a lot to impress Materialise CEO Fried Vancraen in the world of 3D printing. His keynote address at TCT Asia pointed out how tiresome he finds the amount of small FDM printers printing useless objects. However, Fried was suitably impressed with one fellow TCT Asia exhibitor to dedicate a portion of his talk to their efforts.
That exhibitor is Winsun - the Chinese company who have made mainstream news for the quick construction of 3D printed houses, apartment blocks and villas. Fried said of the company: "This is a truly innovative use for 3D printing, there are few high value 3D printed products but the fact that Winsun uses recycled material, is low cost and is protected by 98 patents means there is potential to create a really valuable 3D printed product for the world."
Esteemed 3D printing consultant Graham Tromans concurred: "Imagine a natural disaster zone, which leaves hundreds or thousands of people displaced from their homes, with Winsun’s technology it is feasible that infrastructures could be replaced within a matter of days."
Laying the foundations
Winsun’s journey to becoming one of the most exciting and talked about companies involved in 3D printing started back in 2002. The original concept behind Winsun was to create new eco-friendly materials for the use in the construction industry. One of the six materials created since that date, CRG – fibreglass reinforced gypsum board – is now used in 95% of theatres built across theatres in China. Winsun’s materials have been used in over 400 major construction works throughout China including the multi-award winning Beijing National Aquatics Center - colloquially known as the Water Cube – for the 2008 Olympic Games.
The environmental focus of Winsun’s original concept made the leap into 3D printing an entirely logical one; if Winsun could decrease the wastage of their already green materials by using additive technologies rather than subtractive ones the firm would cooking with gas – or, indeed, printing in Crazy Magic Stone…
Rough printed sections can be decorated with moulded furnishings.
In 2004 Winsun began developing a 3D printer head and automatic feeding system that would be suitable for extruding their range of materials on a house-sized scale. Ten years later Winsun were creating global news as they 3D printed ten houses in 24 hours, created the world’s tallest 3D printed building and a 1,100 square meter mansion with internal and external decoration to boot, all using their proprietary 3D Printing for Construction technical system.
Winsun claims that the system saves up to 60% on materials, 80% on labour costs and 70% construction time, claims which sufficiently interested Egypt’s government enough to order 20,000 single-storied 3D printed houses as they seek to create one-million affordable homes by 2020. Wonders of the world, Winsun houses are not, but they also don’t take decades and ten of thousands of workers to build.
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The system is not wholly different from that of the KamerMaker by DUS Architects that started building a 3D printed canal house in Amsterdam over a year ago using plastic materials. It is essentially a giant FDM machine (6.6m tall, 10m wide, and 150 meters long), using a paste extruder filled with one of Winsun’s materials that prints sections of buildings that are to be fitted together. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle; the bigger the pieces, the easier they are to fit together and the sooner the puzzle is finished.
The popularity and newsworthy nature of Winsun’s developments meant the booth; close to the entrance at TCT Asia was barely accessible throughout the three-day show. On display was a selection of Winsun’s material developments as well as portions of the 3D printed buildings. The examples included a print with added mouldings for decoration, a print that was tightly packed with polystyrene for insulation and a print that had been guided around some embedded steel reinforcement poles, which can be cemented into the ground for sturdier foundations.
Winsun's Booth at TCT Asia.
Winsun’s advances in the 3D printing for construction in many ways sum up the additive manufacturing industry in China. While many governments in the West weigh up the technology’s benefits to their economy China are ploughing money into the industry. The dividends are companies like Winsun, who are not only drawing worldwide media attention but contracts from worldwide governments and companies alike.
Fried Vancraen suggested that Winsun could potentially bring a high value 3D printed product to market. It would appear that potential is being as rapidly built as one of their 3D printed houses.