Ever heard of the Chinese company WinSun? Don’t worry, until today we hadn’t either, but it may be a company worth keeping an eye on. As it turns out, the private firm is using 3D printing technology to build fully functioning houses—up to 10 in a single day in Shanghai.
The printers themselves aren’t exactly something you’d find in a home office. Invented by WinSun chief executive Ma Yihe, these massive machines are 32 feet wide by 21 feet high, and four are required to build each home. The buildings are printed in segments, using a quick-drying mixture of cement and construction waste that the machines spew out in layer after layer. Later, they're assembled in place.
Since the materials are so cheap and readily available, each building reportedly costs less than $5,000.
On the one hand, that’s fantastic—it could be a viable solution for the world's low-cost housing needs. But on the other hand, part of that low cost is due to the minimal human labor required. And as anyone following American politics can tell you, large-scale housing projects that don't create ample jobs might not be met with overwhelming enthusiasm.
Our biggest gripe? The buildings WinSun has create thus far are pretty darn ugly.
CEO Yihe explains that the company "can print buildings to any digital design our customers bring us.” We hope that’s true, but we have a hard time believing we'll see any Frank Lloyd Wright–esque masterpieces out of these machines any time soon.
Despite its low cost, the technique faces other challenges in China. Perhaps the biggest is that no regulations currently exist for the construction of 3D-printed buildings. But as the technology continues to develop, this will likely change.
Entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on 3D-printed housing have a lot of room to grow, both in terms of size and design quality. Building 10 houses on the cheap in one day, though, is an undeniably huge achievement—and a great place to start.