Jill Fehrenbacher

Print a house in 24 hours with robots!

by , 06/15/05

house-print

You may have heard of 3D printing, but did you know that rapid prototyping has grown to architectural scale? Inventor Behrokh Khoshnevis has developed a contour crafting machine which will allow one to “print” a house out of concrete in 24 hours. The contour crafter has been causing quite a stir with forward thinking architects, NASA and advocates of low-income housing, for its wide-ranging potential applications.



To imagine a contour crafter, picture a 3D printer on steroids, filled with cement. To get a better idea of how this contraption works, picture a gantry crane with a computer guided nozzle on rails attached to it. Hook it all up to a CAD program with structural designs and it will build the structure from the ground up, as the nozzle deposits cement layer by layer.

This has some potentially huge ramifications – a typical American house takes at least six months to complete, generating about four tons of waste. It’s believed the contour crafter will be able to erect most structures in about a day, generating far less waste in the process. Furthermore, by automating the process, architects are free to create some
[[image:house-print3.jpg::right:0]] pretty wild designs – curved walls are just as easy to create as flat ones and structurally just as sound. Khoshnevis believes that the contour crafter will ultimately be able to create structures using adobe, mud and straw dried by the sun rather than cement.

The USC engineering professor was inspired to build this machine after an earthquake destroyed the city of Bam in his native Iran. Witnessing the devastation, Behrokh Khoshnevis realized that a technology was needed to allow people to build stable homes in a rapid and economical manner. The first commercially available contour crafting machines are expected to be ready in 2008.

I for one am ready to move into my computer-designed, robot-made mud hut asap!

To understand how revolutionary this technology is, you really need to see it in action:

Watch the Quicktime version of the movie >
Watch the Windows version of the movie >

Via New Scientist & Discover.com

Posted by Brian Corcoran

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7 Comments

  1. Laura Haymond October 1, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Contour Crafting seems great for new construction, but how does one use it to make repairs on an existing structure? Even one previously made by the CC process? Also, embedding wires and pipes in the concrete as it goes up is also all well and good, but what do you do when something breaks? Tear down and rebuild the whole wall? In order for the CC process to be considered green life cycle costs should also be considered. I’m sure there is a way to do it, but these type of issues seem important before the CC process goes commercials.

  2. Martin Baadsgaard March 9, 2007 at 9:54 pm

    Theoretically, you could put in at least the wires… directly into the concrete.

    Imagine one of those toothpaste tubes, where the toothpaste comes out with stribes.
    Using the same principle, a nozzle could drill into the still-wet concrete, and a syringe kind of tool could add a “wire” of conductive material, surrounded by an isolating/protecting kind of material, like some kind of silicone.

    this is just a thought I had, but I bet these guys already thought of it :)

  3. Jose Corujo February 7, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    I wish it could not only print it in concrete, but also put in the wiring, plumming etc…. I guess it will leave the gaps for the manual installation of these. Any steel needed to reinforce the concrete?

  4. Kurt Schwind January 20, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Mark, what you say makes a lot of sense. However, I quick peek at http://www.contourcrafting.org/ answers several of the questions you raise. They do address the reinforcement of the concrete and electrical and plumbing. The short answer on the latter is that the countor machine makes conduit for all of the internal services you’d require.

    So it’s true that you can’t just walk into a ‘complete house’ after this is done, but the internals become very simple to deal with because everything is ‘studded’ out for you. And it does get reinforced. Take a peek at their website. It’s really interesting stuff.

  5. james simms November 7, 2005 at 12:03 pm

    please tell me if this constryction would be or could be made to survive a hurricane and or tornado thank you jim simms

  6. Mark Kinsler July 1, 2005 at 7:40 am

    The ‘four tons of waste’ generated by the ‘typical American house’ must include the earth excavated for the foundations; otherwise it’s nowhere near that. And a house doesn’t take six months to construct, unless you’re discussing those weird proto-mansions they build on California mountainsides.

    Moreover, the house mentioned here is just a shell: no wiring, plumbing, window frames, HVAC, cabinets, doors, roofing, gutters, drainage, or foundation preparation. A shell is very quick to construct; a viable home takes intensive labor.

    Unless there is some invisible reinforcement somewhere, this building would qualify as un-reinforced masonry and thus not qualify as earthquake-resistant. In areas where there’s expansive clay–e.g., the American southeast–foundation slabs must be reinforced.

    While the idea of ‘rapid prototyping’ on an architectural scale is fascinating, I think the technology would be better used for the creation of concrete forms for shells as well as for the pre-fabrication of the details that make a shell into an inhabitable dwelling.

    Mark Kinsler http://www.mkinsler.com

  7. maria anna addicks June 27, 2005 at 7:59 am

    molto interessante, vorrei sapere i costi per l’italia. Io sono residente a palermo (sicilia)un cordiale saluto addicks maria anna.

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