By Steve Rizer
Technology that rapidly 3D prints large-scale structures directly from architectural computer-aided-design models is expected to become commercially available in two to three years, a spokesperson for the research entity developing the Contour Crafting system told ConstructionPro Week. Contour Crafting recently netted the $20,000 grand prize in this year’s “Create the Future” design contest.
Contour Crafting, created by University of Southern California (USC) Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, is intended to automate the construction of whole structures and dramatically reduce the time and cost of construction. Potential applications include towers, bridges, low-income housing, and emergency shelters. In addition, the National Aeronautical and Space Administration is considering the technology for building bases on the Moon and Mars.
As explained by USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering, “Contour Crafting is a process by which large-scale structures can be fabricated quickly in a layer-by-layer fashion, like 3D-printing a building. The process slashes the cost of building a structure by minimizing the man-hours needed to manufacture it.” For residential structures, the process can “increase the speed at which a house can be put on the market, lowering the financing cost by allowing it to turn a profit for the builder more quickly. The process should also be much safer for construction workers than traditional building techniques, which would lower the cost of insurance for building companies.”
For printing a house, Contour Crafting researchers believe that “at a construction rate of about 20 seconds per square foot of wall (three minutes per square meter), a modest-sized 2,500-square-foot home could be constructed in about 18 or 19 hours with a workforce of about four people. We’re currently developing the technology to ensure that not just walls are printed, but infrastructure such as water and sewage pipes as well.”
Researchers estimated that approximately a 60 percent savings can be achieved once such a project is fully implemented with plumbing, wiring, tiling, etc. They also predicted that there will be nearly zero waste after completion of the home.