3D Printed Homes May Be The Next Big Thing
January 23, 2014

Contour Crafting Aims To Print Houses In A Single Day

[ Watch the Video: Printing A House In A Single Day ]

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Three-dimensional printing has the potential to impact everything from Americans’ Second Amendment rights to food production, and a new startup company founded by a University of Southern California professor is planning to use the technology to fabricate housing.

The novel robotic form of construction is said to be capable of building a domicile in less than 24 hours and the company, called Contour Crafting, calls the process cheaper, faster, safer, stronger and ‘greener’ than conventional construction methods.

“If you look around yourself, pretty much everything is made automatically today -- your shoes, your clothes, home appliances, your car," said company founder Behrokh Khoshnevis in a presentation at TEDxOjai. "The only thing that is still built by hand are these buildings."

"Construction – the way it’s done today is very wasteful," he noted. "Our solution benefits from advanced technology...it is essentially a way of streamlining the process of construction by benefiting from the experience we have gained in the field of manufacturing."

The construction machine shown in videos released by the company appears to be similar to desktop 3-D printers made by companies like MakerBot and 3D Systems. The construction process would begin with workers laying down two parallel rails at a width just outside the eventual building’s exterior walls.

After the massive 3-D printer is set on the guide rails, a crane with a hanging nozzle would travel along the length of the rails – putting down concrete in layers to fashion hollow walls. These walls are then filled in with additional concrete. Interlocking steel bars would be laid down as the construction progresses to bolster the structure. Human construction workers would hang doors and insert windows after the initial ‘exoskeleton’ is complete.

Khoshnevis said the printer is capable of considering plumbing, electrical and flooring demands for multi-story buildings.

Although the constructed structures shown in company videos appear blocky and almost Lego-like in their design, Khoshnevis told MSN that “every (Contour Crafted) building can be different.”

“They do not have to look like track houses because all you have to do is change a computer program,” to get a different design, he said.

The company founder added that the printer nozzle allows for more creative constructions than building methods.

“The walls can be curved” he said, adding that “you can have very exotic architectural features without incurring additional costs.”

One concern with this technology, as with similar labor-saving innovations, is the potential loss of jobs.

“There is concern about people being put out of construction jobs,” said Khoshnevis. “The reality is that a lot of new jobs can be created in this sector as well.”

He noted that in 1900 almost 62 percent of all Americans were farmers, unlike today when 1.5 percent of Americans work in agriculture, a result of technological advancement.

“The same will be true in the case of construction,” Khoshnevis argued.

“Construction is a hazardous job” he added. “It is more dangerous than mining and agriculture. It kills 10,000 people every year (and) because of all the different trade and managements structures, the process is pretty corruption prone. It is very costly and always over budget.”