Jan.22, 2014

The idea of a giant robot which is able to 'print' out buildings using 3D printing technology has been around for some time. Now, the Navy, along with the National Science Foundation, is funding research which will make this idea more 'concrete'. These organizations are supporting the company Contour Crafting in developing the automated construction of civil structures using... you guessed it: concrete.

The company's founder, Behrokh Khoshnevis, is a professor of engineering and director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) at the University of Southern California. His website describes the Contour Crafting (CC) technology as having the ability to automatically construct a single building or colony of buildings – each with the possibility of a distinct design – in a single run. According to Khoshnevis, concrete printers would be able to build a 2,500-square-foot building within a single day. For the military, this technology could allow soldiers deploying to remote locations with minimal infrastructure to operate out of permanent, concrete structures relatively quickly. Combat engineers could fly in with printers and material which makes the potential advantages provided by the Contour Crafting technology for the military and its personnel clear.

Contour Crafting is a layered fabrication technology which is similar to the principle of DIY RepRap 3D printers. A computer-guided nozzle deposits a trail of viscous concrete while tracing along the footprint of the building. In this way, the structures are built layer by layer. Currently, the concrete walls are able to bear a compressive stress of 10,000 pounds per square inch. The system also allows additions to this basic scheme. For example, a robotic arm can continually insert coils of steel rebar to make the walls stronger, and spaces for doors and windows – as well as conduits for electricity, plumbing and air conditioning – could be included in each structure. 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 articulates some of these potential advantages of his technology in the video below. He asserts that conventional construction is comparatively slow, labor intensive, inefficient, wasteful, emission causing, corruption prone, and expensive. He also sites the hazardous nature of conventional construction – with around 10,000 people injured and 400,000 people killed per year. Furthermore, he suggests that automated building technology may cut back on the corruption which is often a factor in conventional construction projects.

Considering the history of recent missions in the Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear why the U.S. military may see advantages in automated concrete construction. However, as Khoshnevis suggest, automated construction techniques would also be ideal for projects even farther from home – like the moon, or even Mars. In this way, the funding provided by the Navy may contribute to the advancement of building techniques on a variety of future fronts.

Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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jd90 wrote at 1/22/2014 11:36:43 PM:

The newest Contour Crafting video they posted is from 2012, and I think their newest photos are that old too.

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