3D printing has been used many times in relief efforts for natural disasters, such as earthquakes, and even preparation for and prevention of these disasters. Ten years ago in Sichuan, located in southwest China, over 80,000 people were killed, and millions displaced, when a massive earthquake struck the region. The epicenter was located 50 miles from the provincial capital of Chengdu, and aftershocks were felt for months, which caused even more damage.
In November of 2008, six months after the Wenchuan Earthquake, the central government announced that as part of the Chinese economic stimulus program, it would spend 1 trillion RMB over the next three years to rebuild damaged areas.
However, work continues on the recovery efforts to this day. Over the past decade, students and academics from Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) have been working on over 70 interdisciplinary projects that can help increase, as the university puts it, “the resilience of the affected communities.” One of these relief projects uses 3D printing.
This week, PolyU hosted a forum in order to celebrate the many achievements of the projects so far, as well as to discuss lessons learned and determine a way for the communities to continue forward. The forum, “Resilience: From Disaster Management to Disaster Risk Reduction – 10 Years After Wenchuan Earthquake,” was officiated by Mr. John Lee Ka-chiu, Secretary for Security of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
Dr. Animesh Kumar, Deputy Chief, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) for Asia and Pacific Region, discussed lessons from the earthquake in his keynote speech, along with the impact the projects have made on disaster risk education and an update on implementing the Sendai Framework, a major UN agreement that sets “quantified targets” for lowering the impact of disaster and preventing new risks up to the year 2030.
PolyU President Professor Timothy W. Tong said that in addition to growing the community’s capacity for disaster management, all of the projects, which run the gamut from disaster preparedness, rebuilding, and emergency medical response to social work and life education, have helped restore people’s sense of well being.
Many of the projects, which more than 800 PolyU students of different disciplines have worked on, have been turned into real-life service models and platforms that are helping additional communities in the Chinese mainland and overseas.
One example is the Institute for Disaster Management and Reconstruction (IDMR) jointly set up by PolyU and Sichuan University. Open since 2013, it’s the first training institute of its kind on the Chinese mainland. More than 200 professionals have since been trained in physical therapy, prosthetics and orthotics, occupational therapy, and disaster nursing, while 42 doctoral graduates have learned about disaster relief and reconstruction.
An exhibition was also held during the forum, to increase the public’s understanding of disaster prevention and reduction. The university’s decade-long disaster management and relief work in Sichuan was put on display, such as making survival kits for preparedness, a globe model that shows disaster risks around the world, and the Bright Building project, which is an undergraduate initiative that uses 3D printing to reconstruct damaged buildings for communities after the earthquake.
“The earthquake disaster seriously threatened the social and economic development of the local area as well as caused tremendous problems in people’s production and living conditions in the affected areas,” reads the Bright Building website. “Frequent geological disasters are a test of the capacity of comprehensive disaster prevention and mitigation technologies. Three dimensions printing (3D printing) technology or additive manufacturing (AM) allows efficient and safe construction and production of building structures in a relatively short period of time with reasonable cost control.”
The purpose behind the Bright Building project, with a subheading of “Additive Construction for Post-Disaster Redevelopment,” is to use 3D printing to build a multi-purpose disaster prevention and relief material distribution center in the affected community. 3D printing can be a quicker, more environmentally-friendly way to manufacture structures, and the materials used also have a higher level of design flexibility and structural strength – helpful for post-disaster reconstruction.
“Therefore, 3D printing technology has great potential to promote the mechanization, automation and intelligent transformation of the manufacturing industry, and further, promote the industrial construction of the construction industry,” the Bright Building site reads.
In addition to using 3D printing, Bright Building has adopted a zero-carbon building design and intelligent control management systems. This combination allows 3D printed buildings to perform consistently after disasters have occurred. The plan is for the 3D printed Bright Building to be used during disaster relief as a temporary distribution center for rescue supplies, as well as temporary housing for displaced residents; otherwise, it will serve as a multi-purpose community space.
Students from PolyU designed the project, with support from other students, researchers, and professors from the following universities:
- Tongji University
- Sichuan University
- Zhongnan University of Finance and Economics
- Hong Kong University
- National University of Singapore
- San Francisco University
- Temple University
- University of Bond
The project hopes that its 3D printed, smart, zero-carbon building can be used as a future blueprint for reconstruction after a disaster.
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[Images: Bright Building, unless otherwise noted]