Chinese Firm Reveals World's First 3D-Printed Five Story Apartment Building

Tyler Durden's picture

While China's stock market continues levitating at an ever more amusing pace, this is happening at the expense of China's far more important housing market, which sadly for three-quarters of China's population (in the US 75% of household assets are in financial products, in China: in real estate) continues to deflate at a rate faster than US housing in the aftermath of Lehman. And for better or worse, Chinese home prices are likely set to drop even more, and not due to something as arcane as glitches in fiscal or monetary policy, but something far more tangible: technological advances, and specifically - 3D printed houses.

Meet WinSun: the Chinese company has been documented to print 10 complete houses in 24 hours, using a proprietary 3D printer that uses 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. But while this in itself is impressive, the punchline is the cost: the houses can be produced for under $5,000, which means that if adopted widely, 3D printing can lead to a collapse in prices of new home construction across China, which while good for new buyers could be catastrophic for the economy and the banking sector where nearly $30 trillion in commercial loans are collateralized almost entirely by China's overinflated housing sector.


Not content with building single-family houses (and WinSun's own office), WinSun recently made history when it demonstrated the world's first entirely 3D-printed five-story apartment building and a 1,100 square metre (11,840 square foot) villa, complete with decorative elements inside and out, on display at Suzhou Industrial Park.



According to CNET, while the company hasn't revealed how large it can print pieces, based on photographs on its website, they are quite sizeable and ornate. A CAD design is used as a template, and the computer uses this to control the extruder arm to lay down the material "much like how a baker might ice a cake," WinSun said. The walls are printed hollow, with a zig-zagging pattern inside to provide reinforcement. This also leaves space for insulation.

This process saves between 30 and 60 percent of construction waste, and can decrease production times by between 50 and 70 percent, and labour costs by between 50 and 80 percent. In all, the villa costs around $161,000 to build.


And, using recycled materials in this way, the buildings decrease the need for quarried stone and other materials -- resulting in a construction method that is both environmentally forward and cost effective.

WinSun hopes to use its technology on much larger scale constructions, such as bridges and even skyscrapers, which means this is just the beginning of not only conveyer houses, but of massive price deflation across China's housing market, which judging by the relentless plunge in Chinese inflation and the hard landing the local economy has found itself in, may have come at the worst possible time.

In conclusion, one can only hope that WinSun "Quality Control" checklist is a little broader than some of its Chinese peers whose rush to the finish, often times leads to unfortunate consequences.

h/t Keith

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czarangelus's picture

Don't worry. Even if this can be shown to build rugged, lasting civil infrastructure on the cheap, we can rest assured no government will ever issue you the permits required to build one on your own property.

NoDebt's picture

Well, not if it reduces the square footage of your property where rain can hit the soil or if it casts a shadow, no.

Morbid's picture

here go construction jobs..

0b1knob's picture

Printed houses?   What will they do next print MONEY????

Oh wait....

Paveway IV's picture

3-D printed buildings? Hardly. Only in the minds of the marketing deparment.

It's pre-manufactured concrete slabs with textured decorative coatings sprayed on. That's it - that's the only 3-D part. It's a pre-fab concrete building with fake brick texture. BFD.

You still need to build a foundation, frame and mount all the slabs to it. With a crane. No giant 3-D printer anywhere in the area. If you dispense with the crappy fake brick or marble texture, you can 2-D print your own shack in ten minutes like this: go down to the local cement plant, get a few dozen pre-formed slabs and assemble. The 2-D printing part is 40 gallons of latex paint and a paint sprayer. No alien technology or other dimensions required.

wee-weed up's picture



Printed houses?   What will they do next print MONEY????

Ha! Yellen is laughing her fat ass off!

MonetaryApostate's picture

Technology, what is it good for?  Oh that's right, profiteering w/o high labor cost...

Eeyores Enigma's picture

What will they print next?

People who can afford to live in them.

JuliaS's picture

Current pre-fab construction methods are far superior to 3D printing. Because many components are manufactured off site, different stages of construction can be performed in parallel. 3D printing, on the other hand, is a sequential process. Additionally, concrete by itself would not be able to support floors and overhangs. Different materials and construction methods are required to build large and complex structures. The Chinese building couldn't have been built without utilizing pretty much all of the conventional techniques.

With plastic printing the process can be expedite by controlling the filament temperature. With concrete a printer would have to go only as fast as the bonding allows, which is very very slow, considering you're squeezing 50-100 layers per floor.

JLee2027's picture

Matter of time.

Land prices should rise and housing prices will fall especially if you can shop at say Walmart for a "Print-Your-Own House" model.


Dutti's picture

"With concrete a printer would have to go only as fast as the bonding allows, which is very very slow" Wrong, they use fast drying cement mix - watch the video!


css1971's picture

It's pretty obvious that the next step is to take the printer to site, plug it in and press the print button.

If they don't already have a working prototype that can do this, you can be damned sure that they will be working on it right now... This is the bell tolling for the construction industry. If you're in it, either get on board with 3d printed houses or get out of the business before you're forced out.

XitSam's picture

You're talking about what the Chinese company has done which seems to be a hybrid, 3D printing in the factory and assembling on site. If you care to look, this is not just concrete slabs.

Contour Crafting (actual 3D on-site building printing) has been around for a few years. I don't know why they are pissing around with NASA contracts and worrying about how to bury electrical cable runs in the walls instead of immediately commercializing on cheaply framed houses.  Update: Damned academics.

daveO's picture

So, what will all the new 'citizens' do? Go home?

Laowei Gweilo's picture

did you even watch the video? :P it still requires a lot of construction workers to put all the Legos together :D

Antifaschistische's picture

You nailed America, no modern techniques will be allowed.  Legacy construction techniques/methods are hardcoded into the permitting/inspection processes.  

Home depot even sells "sheds" for a few thousand dollars that would be awesome for some dude who is "homeless".   Sorry, not in America...not allowed.   If you can't afford a big mortagage to funnel money to Manhattan, then you don't deserve any shelter in America.

czarangelus's picture

Millions of homeless families, millions of unoccupied homes.

Only in America - or the USSR.

ThroxxOfVron's picture

Millions of homes are also occupied by people who ceased to pay their mortgages, insurance and taxes years ago:


Millivanilli's picture

As are ordinances and covenants.  It is crucial to make obtaining shelter as stressful as possible.  Otherwise people might have enough time to organize against the govt.

seek's picture

Yep. It's very difficult to build small houses due to code requirements -- the small house people bitch about this all the time. Many have to employ creative workarounds, like building the home on a trailer bed, the circumvent the rules.

I find it amusing that in most areas you couldn't legally build homes the size that an average contemporary citizen lived in at the time of the US was founded.

mijev's picture

Back in the 80s an australian yacht builder put together some prefab houses (carbon fiber maybe?) that he said could be built for under $5k each and given his background they passed just about every test for fire, termites, water, cyclones etc equal to or better than brick houses. As you can imagine his plans were quickly blocked by the government and never heard of again.

daveO's picture

Then there were the hurricane proof pre-fab metal ones. Quite nice, there's one near here. The hurricane proof styrofoam block ones popped up in Ireland, I think. Not so pretty but ok. Take away multi decade mortgages, subsidized by the taxpayers, and these would become reality faster than you could say 'unemployed building inspector'. 

Grumbleduke's picture

nice one, made of a shipping container.


Another good idea, walking into the memory hole?


New_Meat's picture

"I find it amusing that in most areas you couldn't legally build homes the size that an average contemporary citizen lived in at the time of the US was founded."

Those tiny abodes also had enough extra room for a Brit soldier or two to hang their gear.

- Ned

JuliaS's picture

30 million apartments sit empty in China.

They should've invented a house shredder.

css1971's picture

China has a population of 1.3 billion people. 30 million is 2%.

Fun Facts's picture

The total US population represents the rounding error in estimating the Chinese population.

daveO's picture

The bank and insurance co's will see to that. Imagine if someone could replace their home for less than a year's worth of house payments. Oh, the horror!

StychoKiller's picture

Now, PROVE how rugged this method is by building housing in Nepal...

Raffie's picture

I like the ship container houses, trhey are so flexable to all the things you can do and they are all steel.

ebworthen's picture

Safe and sustainable, probably really cost effective too.

I'm sure if they build some in Detroit it will revitalize the city.

813kml's picture

They tried but the printer had its hubcaps stolen.

NoDebt's picture

Two words:  Lumber Liqudators.

If threre's not formadehyde in that thing, I'll eat my hat.

Perseus son of Zeus's picture

It's mostly cementitious, probably high amounts of coal ash but I doubt formaldehyde.

nmewn's picture

lol...for those old enough to remember...

Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.

Benjamin: Yes, sir.

Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?

Benjamin: Yes, I am.

Mr. McGuire: Plastics.

...Benjamin then goes on to boink Mr.McGuires wife ;-)

MisterMousePotato's picture

My wife says "boink." You and she are the only ones I know who do.

mijev's picture

I've often wondered about the origin of the words "bonk" and "shag." The english have a proclivity towards saying words backwards to make them a little less offensive and it occurred to me that bonk and shag could be knob and gash backwards, two of the most popular words in the UK for penis and vj. Just a thought.

falak pema's picture

two fingers up for your originality; the english longbow archers were less polite, they showed them to the french knights lying on the field once they had shot down their horses; "very unsporting old fella, but very efficient!" said the knights who would never bonk their wives again unless they paid their ransom by shagging their purses !

New_Meat's picture

"he english have a proclivity towards ..."

lotsa' things!

Salah's picture

You bet ....gotta prevent those 'Formosan Termites'

Herodotus's picture

Unfortunately, Detroit's problems are caused by the people who live there, not the quality or number of buildings.  Putting the existing residents in new buildings won't solve anything.



813kml's picture

I wonder if it has the intoxicating smell of ditto ink.

NoDebt's picture

Ladies and gents, I present you the future Obamahome.  A government-supplied free house is a basic human right, of course.

And just FYI, you're not so much paying for the pile of sticks (or industrial waste, glass and tailings mixed with concrete), you're paying for where that pile of industrial waste is located

ThroxxOfVron's picture

I see no necessity to actually use industrial waste in such manufacturing processes.

Replace the waste material components in the neo-concrete mixture with equal amounts of non-waste materials and the cost should not rise significantly.

IF these homes last for more than a decade before being recycled the cost benefits might still be enormous vs. traditional methods.

I watched a home at the end of the block I live on being built two years ago.  After the traditional cement foundation and cinderblock basement walls were in place, semi-trailers hauled in pre-fabricated boxes made out of 2x4s and cheap-ass particle wood.  The particle board boxes were crane-lifted into postion and literally stapled together with a big fucking industrial machine using approximately 3-foot wide staples.  

YES.  Fucking prefab particle board boxes and big staples.  I shit you NOT.  

I was too astonished/aghast to even think to photograph this event and wish to hell I had..

That house made of particle board and staples sold for $747K here in Paramus, New Jersey.  There is a fucking Mazerti parked in the driveway, too.  Go figure...


As to the issue of housing...

Is it not patently obvious that the prevailing prodcution and materials costs are simply prohibitive and wasteful, and the associated Commercial Bank loan created inflation and debt burdens are absolutely unsustainable under the present economic system?

Why shouldn't such cheaply constructed lodgings be made available in the United States?

Have the poor no right to their own their own meager hovels anymore?

When technology is developed to solve a problem should the first crude iterations damn further developement and impede progress?  We are all sitting at manual typewriters or crude 86 boxes atm, right?

Enbrace the promise and let the market sort it out.

I would be happy to see this technology developed if only to impeded deforestation and provide more affordable private home ownership.  

At even $50K a pop on a tiny $25K plot such homes would mark a return to affordability last seen in the 1950's when a simple laborer without high school diploma -like my wife's grandfather- could afford to leave the wife at home to raise the children: and pay off the home in 10 years.

I live in today in that 1950's cape build.  At over $400K BOTH my wife and I will likely work away the rest of our lives to try and satisfy the outrageous mortgage ...

daveO's picture

From before the days of debt slavery, aka the good ol' days;

Then, there was this guy. He came along too late in the credit cycle.

luckylogger's picture

My barn is a Potlatch corp kit.. circa 1910 and still standing

Is an "A" model the b and C models are all gone...

I had to do some work to it when I was younger byt it will outlast me..........

And in 1910 a working man could have bought it for 1 years wages..........

WTF happened??????????????????