Impact 2014: Design and print a 3D house

Imagine designing your own house on your computer, then "printing" it out in three dimensions. In China, where construction rates are among the highest in the world, Shanghai-based company Winsun has developed a 3D process that makes it possible to print walls, roofs and furniture.

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Using an eco-responsible polymer of glass fibre and construction waste combined with a giant 3D printer, Winsun built 10 small houses in Shanghai's Qingpu neighbourhood in only 24 hours. Each unit is set to cost less than US$6,000 (S$7,600).

The idea of using a 3D printer in construction projects is not new. In Amsterdam, a five-storey canal house is being built using bricks printed from recycled plastic. The University of Southern California is developing a similar process called contour crafting, while researchers at Britain's Loughborough University are working on 3D concrete printing.

Though still in its early stages, the process will make it possible to rapidly build quality housing in developing countries, where more than one billion people live in slums, or to provide low-cost, stable housing following natural disasters.