It’s hard these days to miss the coronavirus outbreak – the Covid-19 virus is affecting more and more people around the world. While the disease is spreading mainly in China, it is gradually arriving in Europe, particularly in Italy where 52,000 people have been quarantined. At present, it is estimated that nearly 80,000 people are affected, 97% of whom are in China – the country is facing an extreme situation and must organise its health system to treat as many sick people as possible. In Xianning at least, it would seem that additive manufacturing has facilitated this reorganization: Winsun has indeed 3D printed several isolation houses to accommodate quarantined people and medical staff and thus relieve the overloaded hospitals are facing.
The use of 3D printing in the construction sector is not new and has many advantages, including being able to provide a fallback solution in a crisis situation. Being faster, this method of manufacturing makes it possible to create temporary dwellings in an emergency, regardless of the area. Winsun has understood this and has used its 3D printing technology to address this global crisis. Originally, these small houses were intended for the tourism sector: as they are easily deployable in any location.
These isolation houses include 3D printed walls | Credits: Winsun
3D printing could ease the burden on hospitals
Winsun says that it was able to 3D print the walls of 15 houses in Xianning city in just 24 hours, a printing time of less than 2 hours for each house. It is an extrusion process that was used: the robotic arm, mounted on rails installed all around the construction site, deposits successive layers of concrete that hardens quickly to ensure stability. Each small house has a surface area of 10 square meters, a height of 2.8 meters and was designed to relieve the burden on hospitals by accommodating quarantined people but also medical staff. According to Winsun, they all have showers, air conditioning and toilets, meet the required insulation standards and can each accommodate two people.
The houses seem to have been 3D printed with a more environmentally friendly material, which could increase the durability of each construction. Ma Yufeng, Winsun General Manager, explains: “We use recyclable materials such as sand and construction rubble. It is very environmentally friendly. When it comes to safety, the constructions are at least twice as strong as concrete constructions.” It’s hard to know if these homes will be as solid as conventional homes as they have not been tested before.
The isolation houses are equipped with a shower, toilet and bed
Each construction would amount to $4,000, costs borne by the manufacturer Winsun itself. The company has already announced the 3D printing of an additional 200 houses for which donations are currently being collected. More information can be found on the manufacturer’s website. Can 3D printing help fight the coronavirus outbreak?