At first glance, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis’ Contour Crafting (CC) seems both fascinating and unreal – a fabrication machine that has the potential to construct entire structures in a single run. Supported by the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research, CC’s combination of conventional robotics and “age-old tools” creates a layered fabrication process where large-scale parts can be fabricated at remarkable speeds. On his blog, Khoshnevis, a professor in the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, explains that the system is a scale-up of the rapid prototyping machines now widely used in industry to “print out” three-dimensional objects designed with CAD/CAM software, usually by building up successive layers of plastic. ”Instead of plastic, Contour Crafting will use concrete,” explained Khoshnevis.
More about Contour Crafting after the break.
As research continues to progress on Khoshnevis’ technology (the system has already been able to fabricate 6 ft concrete walls), CC’s capabilities have been featured in the New York and Los Angeles Times, architecture and construction publications, and radio and television shows, piquing the interest of some of the construction industry’s leaders. In fact, a few years ago, Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, became a major contributor of CC, pushing the research a step further to achieve its goals of building full-scale houses in hours.
With such backing, Khoshnevis intends to exploit the potentials of this construction methodology, as the technology can be applied to a variety of applications, from emergency to low-income housing, commercial housing to space colonies on other planets.
For example, CC has the potential to alleviate those afflicted with emergency situations such as war and natural disaster, as the system can build a 2,000 square foot house with all utilities for electrical and plumbing in less than 24 hours. Due to the technology’s adaptability, CC can use in situ construction material, thus eliminating the need to transport materials long distances, saving the time and costs associated with transportation. In the same way, CC can be used to build “colonies of houses’ for low income situations, with minimal waste of construction material and almost non-existent labor costs and labor injuries and fatalities which happen frequently at construction sites.
As for the future, Khoshnevis will explore geometric design issues, deployable robotics and material delivery methods, automated plumbing and electrical network installation, and automated inspection and quality control. Could this be the construction of the future?