While many companies around the globe are doing their best to push forward and advance construction 3D printing, a fruit farmer from China has taken it upon himself to create his very own construction 3D printer, which—as it turns out—actually works quite well. The farmer, one Mr. Wang from Jingning county, Gansu province, has been developing a construction 3D printer in his spare time, and has even filed a patent application for his technology.
The 3D printer, which itself measures an impressive 6 meters in length, 1.5 meters in width, and 3 meters in height, is capable of 3D printing walls and other large-scale structures based off of CAD designs or other digital models. By connecting the machine to his computer, Mr. Wang has been able to 3D print hollow-walled structures layer by layer using a mixed material made up of conventional portland cement and fine sand. As you can imagine, this means that the cost of materials is generally kept quite low.
The home-made 3D printer, which works much like any 3D printer, extrudes the cement mixture layer by layer through a nozzle. Working at such a scale, the challenge for Mr. Wang was to find a way to ensure that each layer solidified properly so that the final structure would be strong and not collapse. So far, though a bit rudimentary, the solution has been to apply the second layer of material only when the first layer is semi-solidified, which allows them to bond together. According to a Chinese source, the finished 3D printed wall is actually very strong. By additively manufacturing hollow walls, the farmer has been able to fill them with insulation materials, making them not only strong but also well insulated.
Mr. Wang explains that his construction 3D printer offers a number of advantages over traditional construction methods. First, by creating the structure directly from a CAD model or digital design, many steps are eliminated in the construction process, which inevitably makes for a shorter overall production cycle. Second, the construction 3D printer reduces the amount of labor necessary for building. Third, which we mentioned above, the materials used with the 3D printer are not expensive and easily accessible. And last, because the structures are based off of CAD models, the user has few limitations in what he or she can actually construct in terms of size, shape, and style.
Of course, while all these advantages sound great, there are some drawbacks to the homemade 3D printer as well. Most notably, the 3D printer is not yet very efficient in terms of its production speed. In other words, because the single-nozzle printer can only print two square meters of wall per day, its applications are still quite limited. However, Mr. Wang says he is currently working on developing additional nozzles for the 3D printer in order to improve its overall efficiency.
When asked how he planned to use his innovative DIY construction 3D printer, Mr. Wang said he would use it to construct walls for new greenhouses.