There’s no denying it – there’s a serious housing crisis in the world for lower income populations. State-sanctioned housing helps, but there’s just not enough of it. And, building more housing can take months or even years. Researchers at the University of Southern California want to change all that by literally 3D printing 2,500 square-foot houses in 24 hours.
Sound too good to be true? Think again. For the past 6 years, Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis has been leading a research team in developing a new layered fabrication technology using 3D printing called Contour Crafting. Most 3D printers use thermoplastics, but this robot applies layer upon layer of concrete construct straight and curved walls, and even domes.
The printing process utilizes a giant robot with a nozzle and flexible arm on a gantry-like crane (aka the “contour crafter”) above the foundation. The contour crafter then layers concrete based on a computer-generated pattern. Over 24 hours, the layers shape into walls that are embedded with all the conduits and passages for electricity, plumbing, and air conditioning.
The research team created this technology with the hopes that contour crafters could be used for disaster relief to build emergency housing and also to create affordable housing for people who are displaced, homeless, or living in squalor.
Khoshnevis explained his motivation to MSN. “At the dawn of the 21st century, slums are the condition of shelter for nearly one billion people in our world,” he said. “These buildings are breeding grounds for disease – a problem of conventional construction which is slow, labor intensive, and inefficient.”
Khoshnevis’ team is also reaching for the stars – literally. The team imagines that this technology could be used to build structures and colonies on planets other than Earth. These structures could allow people to colonize other planets, taking some of the population stress off of Earth. Both NASA and the Cal-Earth institute are funding Khoshnevis’ project to see if contour crafting can build structures like landing pads, hangers, roads, and habitats on the moon and Mars.
It may all sound like a science fiction novel, but we are closer than ever to revolutionizing construction. Check out the video here, and see for yourself!