While China had their Industrial Revolution rather late in the global game, their production might and speed means they'll likely advance new digital fabrication techniques before the rest of the world does. For example, it's been ten years since the American outfit Contour Crafting first proposed 3D printing houses, but aside from a brief surge of TED-Talk-inspired press in 2012, they've been mostly quiet. In that time, meanwhile, China has begun developing their 3D-printed-house-erecting capabilities in earnest.
The Shanghai-based WinSun Decoration Design Engineering company recently printed ten sample structures of 200 square meters each. What's amazing is that they produced the entire lot in less than 24 hours, and that the cost of each house is less than US $5,000. The concrete-like building material comes "entirely out of recycled materials [and is] a mixture of construction and industrial waste" which the company claims is environmentally friendly (although they don't provide specifics on the material).
The houses are not being entirely printed in place, either. As you can see in this photo, they've printed a structural section horizontally, then hoisted it into a vertical position. This technique should provide some design latitude and solve the Z-axis problem, which would dictate one cannot print a layer without a supporting layer directly beneath it.
And while WinSun did not invent the mammoth 32-meter-wide 3D printer to create these houses--"We purchased parts for the printer overseas, and assembled the machine in a factory in Suzhou," says Ma Yihe, WinSu CEO—they will likely be the first to turn it towards mass production. The next steps are reportedly to build "an entire villa" and undertake a house-building project in the manufacturing city of Qingdao, indicating it will probably be housing for workers.
American regions like North Dakota are currently glutted with workers facing severe housing shortages. China, it seems, is perfecting the technology that can solve issues like this in an affordable way.
Via 3D Printer Plans