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.

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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 &

Posted by Brian Corcoran