Print a City

Since the arrival and expansion of 3D printing on a downloadable and altogether mind blowing scale (size and material-wise), it would seem that if you have the right hardware, there are no limits to what you can build / produce.

Earlier in 2015, the Chinese succeeded in printing a five-storey office building. They proved that it’s now possible to build these houses in the wake of disasters like the recent earthquake in Nepal in a short time period. Also inventions such as these can replace high-volume slum housing in poorer countries in very little time and at a majorly reduced cost.  Some of the less complex models can be assembled within a few hours. The Chinese have made us stop and think that this method of manufacture may have a widespread and robust future.

b9478912-4421-4df3-b3ea-d8ed9f410f30-2060x1236At present China seems to be leading the way and it has already been pioneering business units for small companies, in places like Shizou in the Jiangsu Province. Shizou is also home to leading company Winsun who showcased the most-photographed Print-Sourced home (pictured below) in the world. It’s now even become an Internet sensation and it’s home to a normal family. Check out this YouTube clip: LINK to have a tour of the finished house. It looks like a normal doesn’t it. It took eight builders one month to finish the £105,000 villa. If traditional building methods had been deployed it would have taken 30 people three months.  It could also be good news for future home owners too because even at this rarified stage, costs are halved and if popularity grows buying prices and profit margins will grow.

It may be a few years away until Priory Press even thinks about buying such a specialist piece of hardware, but it is worth a pause to observe how quickly technology changes these days. Look at how quickly digital printing came about, and it’s now as popular as lithographic printing – read our earlier blog about the contrasts here.

254a0db9-9fc6-4596-bbc5-4c4ae30bf6f4-2060x1236These days talk is largely theoretical because of the shortage of printers that can produce 3D housing, yet there are existing incidents that have set a precedent, for instance when Winsun built 10 3D-printed £3,200 concrete houses in a day. It followed this feat up with the afore mentioned office block in Shizou and the villa.  Winsun designed their own custom-made printer (which is 10m x 150m) to achieve these admirable tasks.

For those who wonder how it all works, the materials are moulded from a cement mix. The mix works on the same principle as printing ink. There’s the neatly monikered ‘e-nozzle’ that dispenses the ‘ink’ which is made up of  recycled rubble, fibreglass, steel, cement and binder, and it can usually takes 24 hours to dry. The ribbed-finish printed walls are hollow inside apart from a corrugated filler, a design that saves on materials without sacrificing strength.

Who knows what the future will hold, but with other smaller items being printed across the world on ever smaller devices, we predict we could be downloading all kinds of items for printing at somewhere just like Priory Press within the decade.





Watch this space!

Photography by ImagineCity/Corbis