3-D printed buildings emerge from recycled trash

A Chinese company has built 10 structures in 24 hours using 3-D printing, concrete, and repurposed industrial construction waste.

Jason Cohn/Reuters/File
This plastic model of the Charleston, W.Va., post office, was 3-D printed and is on display at America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in Youngstown, Ohio. In Shanghai, China, a design and engineering company has built 10 full-sized buildings in an astonishing 24 hours using a 3-D printer.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the city of the future sure might be.

A Chinese company, Shanghai Yingchuang Design & Engineering Co., has built 10 buildings in an astonishing 24 hours, and it has done it all with a 3-D printer.

The 3-D-printed structures, which are in the Qingpu District, a suburb of Shanghai, are constructed of a combination of recycled industrial waste and a mixture of sand, concrete, and glass fiber.

"The material has been transformed from industrial construction waste. It is lighter but five times as hard as common construction material,” company CEO Ma Yihe told China’s CNTV. “All the layers are firmly connected with each other. They won’t separate or deform or collapse.”

Similar to the world’s first 3-D-printed house, which went up in Amsterdam earlier this month, the building’s parts can be printed and then clicked together like Legos. The design “can save up to 50 percent of the construction material," said Ma.

Along with being a smart repurposing of the globe’s trash, 3-D printing each of these structures cost a dirt-cheap $3,000 to $5,000. That kind of price point could help solve the problem of building affordable housing around the globe.

However, CNTV also reports that critics at China’s Tongji University say Ma's technology needs to be tested further for safety and durability. One big hurdle, say the academics, is that glass fiber can, like asbestos, damage your lungs and the rest of your respiratory tract. 

Be that as it may, Ma says he plans to keep on pressing Print and turning the buildings into housing for Shanghai's homeless.

• TakePart staff writer Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at GOOD.

The original article, which includes a video, appeared at TakePart, a leading source of socially relevant news, features, opinion, entertainment, and information – all focused on the issues that shape our lives.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.