Faced with a staggering housing shortage, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has put forth an equally staggering proposition to resolve it.
In late July, executives with Shanghai-based WinSun Global, China’s 3D printing pioneer, traveled to the Saudi capital of Riyadh to pitch members of the royal Ministry of Housing on the idea of using 3D printing to build 1.5 million housing units over the next five years. That would represent the world’s largest 3D-printing project.
According to the Dutch industry news blog 3ders.org:
- The Saudi officials revealed that they strongly believed in the future of 3D printing. WinSun Chairman Ma Yihe introduced their custom housing 3D printing technology to the Saudi officials, who praised its quality. The officials further revealed that they believe that WinSun’s technology perfectly aligns with Saudi Arabia’s national policy to greatly expand the number of available houses… The Ministry of Housing and the General Investment Authority therefore warmly invited Ma and WinSun to set up a construction 3D printing factory in the Middle Eastern country.
While no deal tied to this invitation has yet been signed, the photos of smiling faces suggest one is near.
Despite focusing more intently on housing, the oil-rich country is facing a shortfall due to the inability of young families to secure mortgages and residential construction that has failed to keep pace with a growing population, particularly Saudi Arabia’s middle class.
Middle East Makers
WinSun has emerged as a global leader of 3D-printed homes, making headlines in 2014 by fabricating 10 of them in less than 10 hours. In 2015, it employed a 500-ft-long 3D printer to erect a six-story apartment building and three-story mansion in China’s Jiangsu Province. Earlier this year, it also built the world’s first 3D-printed office building, a 2,690-sq-ft structure in Dubai, UAE. That project took just 17 days.
Last year, WinSun also inked a deal to construct 20,000 3D-printed houses for the Egyptian government as part of its own affordable housing initiative. In addition to providing the printer, WinSun will supply a custom “ink” for the housing, including recycled construction waste, glass fiber, steel, cement and other special additives, according to WinSun Chairman Ma Yihe.
Arguably one of China’s most publicity-minded inventor-entrepreneurs, Ma also has announced plans to establish 3D printer plants in 20 countries, including Great Britain and France, in the next few years.
One of 3D-printing’s key selling points is brevity. Although the Dubai office project required a year of planning, the structure needed just two-plus weeks to print in a Shanghai factory and then two more days to install on site. WinSun employed a 20-ft-tall, 120-ft-long, 20-ft-wide printer equipped with an electronic arm to produce the facility in modules that were later halved for shipping to Dubai.
According to WinSun, the 3D process also can reduce labor costs by 70%, and waste by 60%.