WinSun founder and chairman Ma Yihe has been quoted as saying his company could feasibly build Donald Trump’s infamous border wall both cheaply and quickly using its construction 3D printing technology. Whether he was making a serious proposition or not, it’s clear that Ma Yihe thinks his company’s 3D printing tech would be up to the task.
Most of our readers will be familiar with WinSun, as the Chinese 3D printing construction company has claimed many headlines for its various 3D printed structures, including a 3D printed villa, traditional Chinese courtyards, public toilets, and more. And while the company has provoked its share of healthy skepticism over the quality of the structures it is 3D printing, it has been an undeniable pioneer of 3D printing construction.
WinSun 3D printed courtyard wall
In a recent interview with the South China Morning Post, Ma Yihe lightheartedly stated: “Donald Trump could build his wall much cheaper and in less than a year. We could definitely do it. Maybe at around 60 per cent of the projected cost and three to four times faster.”
Whether he was making a serious offer to the controversial 45th president of the United States, or was even condoning the plan for a Mexico-US border wall is not clear. What is clear is that WinSun’s founder believes that his 3D printing technology could be a cheap and fast “solution” for one of Trump’s most egregious campaign promises.
Based in Jiangsu province, WinSun owes its construction feats to its innovative—and highly secretive—3D printer, which reportedly measures 40 meters in length, 10 meters in width, and 6.6 meters in height. Only about 100 people at the company are trained in its operation, and the printer has 129 international patents protecting its parts, including its spray nozzle, composite materials, and more.
WinSun founder Ma Yihe
(Image: Zigor Aldama, SCMP)
According to Ma Yihe, WinSun’s massive 3D printer is capable of producing structures based on traditional architectural plans or 3D models. Due to the technology’s size, it 3D prints the concrete structures in-house, and the parts for whatever building is underway are then shipped to the site for assembly. This feature helps to cut back on on-site air and noise pollution caused by construction, though it presumably causes huge transportation and petrol costs.
In terms of materials, WinSun says it has developed a special 3D printing ink made from 100% recycled materials sourced from industrial and construction waste. “We can create new composite materials that are not only eco-friendly but also have improved properties; the high plasticity of our special glass-fibre reinforced concrete, for example, gives good anti-seismic and wind-load resistance,” explained WinSun’s founder in an interview.
Additionally, like most 3D printing technologies, WinSun’s construction 3D printer is capable of making buildings using significantly less material that traditional construction methods would require (30 to 60 percent less materials). Ma also said his company’s technology can cut back construction times by 50 to 70 percent, labour by 50 to 80 percent, and overall costs by 50 percent.
WinSun 3D printed courtyard
In the past, WInSun’s 3D printed buildings have been criticized for their ugly appearance, though the company is hoping to improve its aesthetics with the help of new brick-like facades, which can be screwed on as panels on top of the rougher 3D printed surface. The composite material is called “crazy magic stone,” and Ma Yihe described it as looking “like natural stone” but with more durable properties.
Currently, some WinSun employees have even moved into a five-storey building 3D printed by the company to trial what it is like living there.
Last year, WinSun announced a few exciting partnerships that will see its technology used across the globe. Through a deal with Saudi Arabia’s Al Mobty Contracting Co., WinSun will help to 3D print 30 million square meters of construction projects in Saudi Arabia. The company will also be offering its expertise for the Hyperloop initiative proposed by tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.