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Development of 3D Printing Technology in China

China unveiled a 3D-printed park with a total area of 5,523 square meters and a greening rate of 88%. Sculptures, benches, flower beds, retaining walls and kerbs in the park have all been completed using concrete construction technology of robotic 3D printing, with a self-developed software control platform, printing tool head and concrete printing materials.

The 3D printing technology has propelled intelligent construction to move from laboratory to the industry. Users can input the digitally designed model into the system, where the digital model will be automatically processed into control signals of the printing equipment. The concrete mixture then reaches the nozzle at the front end of the mechanical arm through the extrusion device and is finally printed under signal control.

According to a report from a market consultation firm based in Shenzhen, the scale of China’s 3D printing industry reached 20.3 billion yuan (3.14 billion U.S. dollars) in 2020, accounting for 24% of the global total and an increase of 31% compared with 2019. And it is estimated to reach 25.1 billion yuan in 2021, up 24% from last year.

As a form of intelligent construction, concrete construction technology of robotic 3D printing boasts great advantages. The technology saves time and human effort as the park was constructed in just two and a half months.

– Professor, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University

The technology is also environment-friendly. For example, machine-made sand, one of the recyclable construction materials used in the concrete mixture, is made from waste grains of sand. Compared with reinforced concrete, 3D printing is relatively cheap since the building simulation stage will solve technical problems in advance and come up with the optimum construction method.

The researchers have explored intelligent construction in other formats as well. They have attempted to print huts that can be opened and closed based on the weather in the suburbs of Zhangjiakou City, a landscape bridge in Shanghai that can accommodate at least four adults per square meter at the same time, and low-cost, sustainable and affordable housing in Africa.

Intelligent construction is still in its infancy, but the digitalisation of the construction industry has bright prospects, said an official with the construction bureau of Shenzhen’s Bao’an district. With the rising labour costs, manpower will be replaced with robots and intelligent systems, integration of digital design and construction has the potential to redefine the future of architecture. The research team is working on construction technology and production materials, aiming to achieve breakthroughs in high-performance concrete materials and printing high-rise buildings.

As reported by OpenGov Asia, China has been drafting a revision to the law on scientific and technological progress to advance the quality and efficiency of its innovation in science and technology. The draft was presented to the ongoing session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress for its first reading. The lawmakers would add three chapters to the existing law which are “basic research,” “regional scientific and technological innovation” and “international scientific and technological cooperation”.

To strengthen basic research and innovation capabilities, the draft proposes establishing an investment mechanism to provide stable support for basic research, and increasing the proportion of funds for basic research in the total sum of funds for research and development across society.

To further stimulate the vitality of scientific and technological innovation, the draft stresses the importance of creating a favourable environment for scientific and technological personnel. It also proposes improving relevant legal responsibilities and banning scientific and technological research, developments and applications that endanger national security or human health, harm public interests, or violate the integrity or ethics of scientific research.

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