6 Story 3D Printed Apartment + DIY Architecture

6 stories of 3D printed lodging.
January 21, 2015 -- BIT Magazine Some might remember the Chinese engineering and construction company, Winsun, that showed off modular 3D printed homes last year. The homes were actually quite large, and the implications they highlighted were larger still.

Now Winsun is back, and this time they have printed out not only a 6 story apartment building, but a mansion as well. Finished, the buildings both look incredible for prototypes and as Winsun and others push this large-scale 3D printing forward, greater designs will rise with them.

Winsun's previous feat, printing ten houses in just one day, included another under-reported breakthrough -- the use of recycled materials as input for the large-scale 3D printer. Both demonstrations have been reportedly shown to save 60% on materials, 70% in hours, and 80% in labor, meaning that barriers to housing are being lowered drastically.

The use of recycled materials, plus the ability to slash time, costs, and manpower required, holds tremendous implications for urban renewal, where abandoned or dilapidated buildings are in large supply, and resources to breath new life into an area are not. Buildings can be broken down, their materials recycled, and then rebuilt. 

Just as desktop 3D printing has dropped the costs of R&D and personal manufacturing through the floor, large-scale 3D printing is doing the same. While the cost of developing a large-scale 3D printer might still be prohibitively high for most individuals, it won't be long before collective communities of makers, centered around makerspaces, can attempt to purchase or construct one. Having your own "house printer" might not be practical, but having one in every community might be.

Just as communities like the Amish organize old-fashioned "barn raisings," could a high-tech 3D printed "home raising" be in the near future? Imagine groups of makers coming together to collaborate on such a project, helping each member design and print out their own homes. While there is a current bifurcation between old-fashioned traditional close-knit communities and the rush ahead toward modernity and technology, the concept of a high-tech 3D printed "home raising" illustrates one possible example of these two desirable outcomes merging in the middle offering the best of both worlds.

As workers paint and outfit the 3D printed structure, it begins to look more and more like traditional architecture.
Winsun's website is full of projects built with their innovative process, including smaller-scale projects they have completed as part of developing their larger, headline-grabbing projects. These smaller projects give us an idea of what makers might end up producing when the first tentative steps toward DIY architecture are taken.

Small scale 3D printed projects by Winsun, leading up to their more impressive projects. These smaller examples will most likely be what makers first tackled when DIY architecture begins to take hold.

As other companies replicate the process of Winsun and demonstrate the benefits of 3D printing architecture, opportunities will open first for developers, then institutions, then the maker community. For now, makers interested in DIY architecture can check out CNC projects like this shed featured in Make: Magazine.

Current 3D printing is already a growing contributor to the area of DIY interior design. When will the jump finally be made to DIY architecture?

BIT Magazine is a bi-lingual platform for Thailand's maker movement to connect, grow, and collaborate with maker communities abroad. Follow us on Twitter here or on Facebook here.

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