In 2008, Shanghai WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Company became the first company to create a building using a 3D printer. It later gained attention in 2014 for printing ten homes in 24 hours, and for 3D printing its own production plant building. Located in the Jiangsu province of China, WinSun is using additive manufacturing to gain an edge against traditional construction companies in China and abroad .
WinSun’s current additive manufacturing process varies greatly from traditional subtractive manufacturing construction. Instead of manually sizing and assembling raw materials into a frame at the job site, WinSun uses its 492ft long 3D printer to build concrete-like structures, which are then shipped from its Suzhou Industrial Park plant to the job site. The printer builds structures using a spray nozzle to layer “ink”, concrete-like composites created using 100% recycled materials, into digitally designed structures such as building walls. The inks are even claimed to have improved properties over concrete, including better resistance against seismic and wind activity.
While some argue that the gray layered-concrete design is not very visually appealing, the benefits to the construction process, both from a financial and time perspective, seem very attractive. Compared to traditional construction of buildings, the WinSun construction process uses 30-60% less new raw material, saves 50-70% in construction time, saves 50-80% in labor, and is 50% cheaper (HK$30,000 for a 645sqft home in 2014). In addition to these benefits, there are some improvements to the construction process that have an out sized impact in China specifically.
3D printed buildings address two key issues faced in the Chinese construction process: pollution and corruption. Various government mandates have been put in place to address the air pollution problems in China  which WinSun addresses by building off-site, which reduces dust and other pollution in the job sites in cities. Aligning to policy should make it faster to go through the approvals part of the construction process. In regards to corruption, construction is among the industries with the highest incidence rates in China – roughly 40% . WinSun offers a defined set of prototypes, has very few intermediaries, and provides an upfront price for each building which differs from traditional construction’s inability to compare projects, changing budgets, and multiple stakeholders. This protects WinSun from costly bribes and time-delaying stakeholder roadblocks.
WinSun’s short and long term plans appear to focus on foreign markets and new product development. WinSun has been in talks with the Saudi Arabian government to potentially build 1.5 million homes over a five year period. Additionally, It has also been in talks with the Iraqi government on a potential sale of 3D printers for a 10,000 home project . WinSun’s chairman, Ma Yihe, has stated that he believes the future growth of the business will come from selling its ink composites and licensing the printer technology, under the protection of its dozens of international patents. What is described as their biggest future project is supplying pillars and seats for Elon Musk’s Hyperloop project, which pushes WinSun into different products than the residential homes it has previously built.
As WinSun continues to look to grow in the future, it has a few options. In the short term, it could solely continue to look for government partnerships to build large quantities of homes. The problem with only focusing on these government partnerships is that they may create an association with 3D printed homes as existing only for mass production housing relief. Instead, WinSun could license the technologies, as they have been contemplating, and focus internally on improving the design and visual appeal of homes so that they can eventually work with private consumers that are willing to pay a bit more for a higher quality homes. In regards to the construction process, WinSun should spend the next decade refining their 3D printers to be mobile, so that they can build a house on-site, while engineering for a minimization of pollution. This engineering improvement should reduce the production times associated with shipping and assembling separate pieces of building, and should also help provide more control at the job site to achieve those higher quality designs.
As I picture Ma Yihe gazing out of his 3D printed window at WinSun’s main plant, I think about what concerns are top of his mind. I would wonder how the additive manufacturing process can be further improved to reduce cost and time, while increasing quality. I would also think about what challenges I may face when entering new countries related to both culture and consumer preferences.
Word Count: 756
 Aldama, Z. (2017). ‘We could 3D-print Trump’s wall’: China construction visionaries set to revolutionise an industry rife with graft and old thinking. [online] scmp.com. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-magazine/long-reads/article/2093914/we-could-3d-print-trumps-wall-china-construction [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].
 Chen, T. (2018). China Smites Smog With an Iron Fist. [online] wsj.com. Available at: https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-smites-smog-with-an-iron-fist-1516185003 [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].
 Levick, R. (2015). New Data: Bribery Is Often ‘An Unspoken Rule’ In China. [online] Forbes.com. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardlevick/2015/01/21/new-data-bribery-is-often-an-unspoken-rule-in-china/#53b14f979c6d [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].
 Iraqi government looking at WinSun`s 3D printed homes for post-war rebuilding efforts. (2016). Real Estate Monitor Worldwide; Amman. [online] Available at: http://search.proquest.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/docview/1812510052?accountid=11311 [Accessed 9 Nov. 2018].