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3D printing isn’t a new concept for Huntsville.  In fact, companies here in town even support NASA with 3D printers that astronauts use to create certain tools or parts they need on demand in space.  But a company based out of China has recently taken 3D printing up a few levels.  Five stories to be exact.

That’s right.  The world has just printed its first five-story building.

Welcome to the dawn of a new age where architects can design and print buildings on demand.

Architectural firms have been competing for the last several years with their designs for 3D-printed dwellings, but WinSun, a company based out of China, set out to get the job done starting last march when the company claimed to have printed 10 houses in 24 hours using proprietary 3D printing technology.

Now WinSun has set the bar for other 3D tech firms around the world and demonstrated their ability to print a 5-story apartment building and an 11,840 square foot villa complete with decorative elements inside and out.

The printer uses an extruder arm to lay down a mixture of ground construction and industrial waste, such as glass and tailings, around a base of quick drying cement mixed with a special hardening agent “much like a baker might ice a cake,” WinSun said.  The walls are printed hollow, with a zig-zagging pattern inside to provide reinforcement and to leave space for insulation.  With this technology, WinSun is able to print out large sections of a building, which are then assembled together, much like prefabricated concrete designs, to create the final building.

This process not only decreases production times by between 50 and 70 percent and drastically cuts labor costs, it also saves between 30 and 60 percent of construction waste.  In all, the printed villa cost around $161,000 to build.

Of course the million dollar question is, is it safe?

Well, according to the Chief engineer of China Construction No. 8 Engineering Bureau, Ma Rongquan, in recent press conference, “These two houses are in full compliance with the relevant national standards.  It is safe, reliable, and features a good integration of architecture and decoration.  But as there is no specific national standard for 3D printing architecture, we need to revise and improve such a standard for the future.”

But here’s the heads up for commercial real estate and developers,  the company hopes to take this same technology even further in the future setting up factories all around the world, including locations here in the United States, with the aim to print on a much larger scale.   Their planned projects include bridges and even skyscrapers.

So what could this new technology mean for commercial real estate?  Imagine the possibility of being able to create custom buildings at half the cost in half the time?

With our strong tech presence in the 3D printing community, could this be the future of construction in Huntsville?




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