A collection of 10 small buildings were recently constructed in the suburban Qingpu District of Shanghai using additive manufacturing, more commonly known as 3D printing, rather than traditional building methods. The 10 structures are intended to be used as office spaces. They were the first 3D printed buildings constructed in China.
A 3D printer created successive 2-centimeter thick layers of material to construct the buildings in a single day. The technology uses “ink” that consists of a combination of sand, concrete, and glass fiber. The team bought parts of the 3D printer abroad and constructed the machine in a factory in Suzhou. The printer measures 22 feet tall, 33 feet wide, and 105 feet long.
The materials used to print the buildings were originally industrial construction waste. The materials are lighter than those commonly used in construction projects, but they are five times as hard. The layers are firmly connected to prevent them from separating, deforming, or collapsing.
The walls are hollow, and the ones with beam columns are 3D printed with steel bars inside. Concrete can then be poured directly into the walls. This process dramatically reduces the amount of construction material needed.
The buildings can be 3D printed on-site, or the walls can be printed at a factory and transported to the construction site. Cranes can be used to stack the pieces to assemble the buildings.
Design software AutoCAD Architecture was used to plan the buildings. The software took into account the need for plumbing, electrical systems, insulation, and windows that were to be added after the structures were built.
Ma Yihe, CEO of Shanghai Yingchuang Design & Engineering Co., which was behind the project, wants to create more centers to recycle construction waste material in China. He is currently applying for a patent.
The technology needs to undergo more testing to evaluate its strength and performance before it can be used on a wider scale. For now, it will be used to build temporary structures.