Aug 21, 2017 | By David

An opening ceremony was recently held to celebrate the completion of a major project in China, which was the installation of the country’s first 3D printed bridge railings. A bridge in the city of Nanjing was in need of new railings, as its current ones were judged to be too dangerous, and 3D printing technology was used to replace them quickly and efficiently.

Fengyuan Road, in the Luihe District of Nanjing, was the site of the installation. Two rows of new railings have been put there, and at first glance it is difficult to tell that they are 3D printed. When pushed by hand, the railings also feel just as strong as any others. Only a closer look at the surface reveals that the railings are made from a material different from conventionally built bridges. The construction of the new railing was a process composed of several steps: firstly, the designer completed the initial design drawings by hand, and then used a computer to create a 3D building model out of them. The data was then transferred to a large 3D printer used for 3D printing buildings and other construction projects, and the railings were printed out layer by layer.

According to bridge railings manufacturer Nanjing Jia Yi Precision Instrument Manufacturing Company, the use of conventional technology to construct bridge railings takes more than a month. 3D printing technology, on the other hand, has a much higher construction rate and incredible efficiency. 3D printing a 200 square meter house would take only 40 hours. The use of 3D printing technology allowed the company to complete the railings project in just 15 days.

Another advantage of using 3D printing is that its main material in addition to cement, quartz sand, is much stronger and more solid than conventional building materials. Chairman Li Jin said that the use of 3D technology negates the need for any molding, so building the railings was 50% cheaper than the original method, with the total cost coming in at somewhere between 50,000($7,490) and 60,000 RMB ($8,990).

In the company's production workshop, 3D printing technology is also used to make houses, tables and decorations, etc. In the workshop, the workers mix raw materials in a machine, and the mechanical equipment then prints out parts layer by layer. This enables rapid completion of prototypes. According to the company, there are only 3 businesses in the country which can make use of this technology. In a statement it said that, "If you use imported technology and equipment, the price is certainly high, but we have done independent research and developed the machine ourselves, and own a patent, from design to production, all (using) our own technology.’’

Some of the earlier 3D printed building projects in the world proved to have some issues with fragility after initial testing. However, Nanjing's bridge railings passed the strength test with flying colours. They could withstand pressure as high as 60 MPa, which is 2-3 times stronger than the traditional cement moulded bridge.

Liu Zijie, chief of the Nanjing Xinghua Architectural Design and Research Institute, says that 3D printing of buildings and architecture is currently in the early stages in China, but is growing at a significant rate. In addition to the cost benefits, the technology is also in line with national environmental targets, as well as the drive towards unmanned construction and other developments. 3D technology will reportedly be used in the construction of the Southern New City project, with entire 3D printed towns being a real possibility in the near future.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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