In 2006, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, professor at the University of Southern California, introduced the world to Contour Crafting: the idea of applying Computer Aided Design and 3D Printing to homes and eventually larger buildings. As Dr. Khoshnevis explains in this TED Talk, Contour Crafting uses a giant 3D printer that hangs over a designated space and robotically builds up the walls of that building with layers of concrete. The robot can paint the walls and tile surfaces and even knows to construct plumbing and electrical wiring as it goes (Dvice). The idea is that by automating the construction process – one of the only processes humans still do largely by hand – homes will be cheaper and more quickly erected, with significantly lower labor costs. More importantly, Khoshnevis believes that Contour Crafting is essential to creating a more “dignified” architecture by eliminating slums in developing countries and aiding areas in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.
While Dr. Khoshnevis continues to develop Contour Craft, Dutch architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars has already come up with the first house design that can be printed using this up-and-coming technology.
More after the break…
When the kids at NOTLabs first got their hands on a MakerBot Replicator, the ingenious 3D printer that can make just about anything you want, they quickly got down to business – making LEGO and Kinex connectors, that is. As inconsequential as their decision may seem, it got us thinking: today, building blocks, but tomorrow? Buildings themselves.
The future isn’t as far as you may think. In the next two articles, I’ll introduce you to three visionaries who are already applying 3D printing technology to revolutionary effect: an engineer hoping to improve the human condition, a robotics expert with the goal of completing the Sagrada Familia (or at least putting a structure on the moon), and an architect at MIT using nature-inspired materials to turn the design world on its head.
If these three examples are anything to go by, 3D Printing will revolutionize the world as we know it. But it begs the question: at what price? Will it offer architects the freedom to design without the pesky limitations of built reality? Or, like the scribes made redundant by Gutenberg’s printing press, will 3D printing make the architect go extinct?
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.