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Discovery Channel’Interview with Ma Yihe

Discovery Channel (known as The Discovery Channel from 1985 to 1995, and often referred to as simply Discovery) is an American cable channel owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, a publicly traded company run by CEO David Zaslav. As of June 2012, Discovery Channel was the third most widely distributed subscription channel in the United States, behind now-sibling channel TBS and The Weather Channel; it is available in 409 million households worldwide, through its U.S. flagship channel and its various owned or licensed television channels internationally.

3d printing has made its way to all sorts of works of life, but nowhere in the world has it taken off quite like China. These are some of the most awesome examples I’ve ever seen. It looks like a shoe for some beast out of sci-fi. 3d printing is used by around a third of companies here for prototyping and has the potential to completely disrupt manufacturing. But I’m about to visit a company that’s 3d printing something much much bigger. This is something I’ve never seen before and it’s definitely putting this region on the 3d printing map. That’s a 3d printed house. The man behind this extraordinary idea is Ma Yihe.

I saw workers at a construction site in burning hot weather building houses. It was dangerous and we thought why we cannot build houses with machines just like we build cars and planes. It took us three days to build this house. We used one day to build each floor so we finished the three-story house in three days. And it took a further week to do the installation. If I didn’t tell you this house was printed, you couldn’t know that. It looks the same as our traditional houses.

The houses here of printed in much the same way as any 3d printer just on a much much bigger scale. You can see from the layers here that it prints everything up layer by layer, except this one is much bigger and it’s printing out sand cement as its material. The key to it is a huge seven-meter-tall printer that piles up layer after layer of a special mix of cement and recycled construction waste. The design is plotted on a computer and the head simply prints out the pieces to be assembled on-site. The special pattern makes it super strong.

This is the house we printed for a Dubai test. For testing how much force it can stand, we placed a 28000kg weight on it for one and a half day. There were a few cracks but it didn’t break. Our houses are more than three times stronger than the traditional ones with wasted concrete.

The technique is so strong. It’s been used to construct a five-story building. And like I’ve seen so often in China, the technology is also being used to retain a bit of China’s past. The 3d printing is so versatile. It can even recreate houses that have traditionally taken master craftsmen up to a year to build.

Workers who can build these kinds of houses are fewer and fewer, so the cost is getting higher. Now we can build a house like this in a week.

The houses can be built 30 times quicker than manual methods, and that means the cost can be reduced by 70%. And because the cement used to print the houses uses recycled materials, it’s much more environmentally friendly in a country publicly committed to improving its environmental record. Ma nearly went bust pursuing this project. It was his faith that kept this idea alive. And it’s another great example of Yangtze Delta entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams.

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