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SYFY WIRE Technology

China's new great wall is one of the world's largest 3D-printed structures

By Jeff Spry
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The major Eastern China city of Suzhou is now home to one of the largest 3D-printed structures in the world after the 3D printing firm WinSun recently completed a massive 1,640-foot-long river protection wall using the blossoming digital technology.

This digital endeavor eclipses the accomplishments of the 3D printing equipment manufacturer Apis Cor, which crafted a record-setting, two-story administrative building for a Dubai government agency earlier this year using a single mobile printer. The modern new media center stands 31 feet tall with a total area of 6,889 square feet. 

While impressive, that's nothing compared to what WinSun's building.

Situated in the Jiangsu region of China just west of Shanghai, Suzhou is a historic mining town that has been rebuilt and revitalized over the years, luring considerable investments by many of the biggest construction companies on the planet.

This lengthy sloped river revetment wall, installed along the Shanghai-Jiangsu Port waterway, is meant to absorb and deflect the energy of strong water currents, thereby protecting the land from destructive shoreline erosion, soil contamination, and flooding. It also provides a stout barrier for sensitive ecosystems and habitats relied upon by numerous birds, fish, plants, grasses, and trees.

WinSun Decoration Design Engineering is a Shanghai-based company that has helped revolutionize the burgeoning 3D printing construction industry. Their machine's process works by printing, layer by layer, large segments of buildings, especially wall panels, using a special “ink” blended from a complex proprietary cocktail of fiberglass, steel, sand, cement, hardening agents, and recycled materials.

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3D printing is quickly becoming a dominant and undeniable force in worldwide construction design and engineering, with records being broken almost monthly for some extraordinary new large-scale structure being birthed across the continents. By utilizing the cutting-edge invention, WinSun was able to trace the natural contour of the area's Suzhou Creek, something that would have been incredibly cost-prohibitive with traditional methods.

China's new 3D wall stands as a testament to the obvious cost-saving, durability, and ecological benefits of the flourishing industry. 3D printing reduces the need for construction materials by an estimated 30-60%, saves 50-70% in total construction time, uses 50-80% less labor, and can be up to 50% cheaper.

As 2020 arrives, this impressive river wall's record could likely fall as more marvels are spun out of construction-minded computers, with the goal of entire eco-cities eventually emerging into reality.

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