If you are impressed by Neri Oxman's 6-inch cube sculpture "Making the Future" or digitally fabricated houses of Facit Homes, then you can imagine it is possible to upload your design and press print, your house will be "printed out" by a giant robot - a 3D printer.
Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of engineering and director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies(CRAFT) at the University of Southern California has invented a technique called ""Contour Crafting". Contour Crafting (CC) is a layered fabrication technology which is similar to the principle of DIY RepRap 3D printers. A computer-guided nozzle that deposits a trail of viscous concrete while tracing along the footprint of the building and the structures is built layer by layer. The system will allows additions to this basic scheme. A robot arm can continually insert coils of steel rebar to make the wall stronger. "We are talking about a technology that can build a square foot of wall in less than 20 seconds," Khoshnevis says. That means building a custom-designed house takes only 24 hours. Unlike other consumer 3D printers, the Contour Crafting could build large objects at a high speed. Khoshnevis found if he used two swiveling trowels to remold the concrete into any angle he could build with over an inch thick layers.
The main advantages of the Contour Crafting process over existing technologies are the superior surface finish and speed of fabrication, thanks to conventional robotics and innovative 3D printing technology.
Khoshnevis's machines can create 3D items in any shape, cubes, rings, disks, either geometrically regular or free-form. The materials can be plaster, concrete, adobe, plastic or even wood particles mixed with epoxy into a paste.
Khoshnevis says his system could be ready two years from now.
"Initially it will be most beneficial to developing countries to eradicate their slums. Next is emergency shelter construction where war and natural disaster uproots thousands of people," says Khoshnevis. "[It] can build much cheaper and much faster and can produce dignified housing rather than tents and boxes." In late November, NASA awarded a grant as part of the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) to Khoshnevis and his collaborators as a possible way to build lunar structures.
Khoshnevis said: "Building is really not a job for human beings in this day and age. When technology gives us the potential we should leave repetitive tasks to machines and free humans to perform creative work. We are aiming to complete a whole house with plumbing, electrics and tiling in one day."
Khoshvevis's prototype robot can build a structure of 23 x 15 x 7 feet. He speculates that the system could also be ground-based, running along rails and able to build several houses at one time.
3D printing process will not only make it faster to build a house, but also could enable new designs that cannot be built using conventional methods, for example involving complex curving walls.
"There are definitely interesting implications," says Sean Bailey, an architect and artist in New York City. "Whereas traditional fabrication techniques require additional resources as complexity increases, 3D printers are not bound to this logic." With a 3D printer, it takes the same amount of time and money to turn a glob of concrete into a cube as it does to turn it into an octopus, says Bailey.
image & video Courtesy Contourcrafting.org
Posted in 3D Printing Technology
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