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Build Your New Home in 24 Hours

3dhomes1

We have spent a lot of time discussing the many potential benefits of 3D printing technology and every time I try to take a break from the topic, it seems something new and groundbreaking pops up that I feel compelled to share with our community.

Once again demonstrating the versatility of 3D printing, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis has developed a technique known as contour crafting and it could be coming to a neighborhood near you sooner than you think.

The technology was developed at the University of Southern California has a way to build large structures quickly using 3D printing technology and a fabric-infused concrete mixture to create everything from concrete bridge components on site to complete homes in 24 hours or less.

3dhomes1

The key to this technique’s success is a special extruder nozzle created by Dr. Khoshnevis that combined with a special hardening additive, allows each layer of cement to keep its form and support the weight of each additional pass without the special molds typically used when working with concrete. The research team has concluded that a 2,000 square foot structure can be completed in approximately 20 hours using this setup. That is impressive!

The contour crafting technique has the potential to completely revolutionize the way modern structures are built while significantly reducing the costs associated with conventional construction techniques. Modern manufactured homes are still out of reach in terms of cost for many American families, but 3D printed homes could represent the market-changing product our housing market desperately needs during these tough economic times.

Some benefits provided by contour crafting include:

  • Increased fabrication speed
  • High-quality surface finish
  • Lower construction costs
  • The durability of reinforced concrete construction
  • Increased safety (construction accidents are very common and are responsible for 400,000 injuries and up to 10,000 fatalities every year in the United States alone)

Yet another benefit to contour crafting is the ease with which complex curves can be reproduced. It is an architectural fact that curved structures are more resistant to natural disasters like earthquakes and tornadoes, but conventional building techniques make curved structures difficult and expensive to build. Contour crafting could become an integral component of building structures in areas prone to powerful natural phenomena.

The same technology is being used to create ceramic components such as piezoelectric actuators, but the real benefit is definitely the construction of low cost and emergency housing.

Think about a devastating catastrophic event such as Hurricane Katrina for a moment. What if a public or private entity could come into a tragedy stricken area and construct multiple solid structures per day using a series of robotic machines? Contour crafting has the potential to become one of the most significant advancements in the 3D printing space to date.

A research team at the University of Southern California is currently researching all potential uses for contour crafting ranging from constructing civil structures to buildings on the moon and Mars to fine art sculptures.

 3dhomes2

As of this writing, Dr. Khoshnevis and his team have not created an entire house yet, but the technique has been used to construct walls over 6 ft high. These walls are filled with a combination of concrete and other filler materials to create a fully-insulated wall very similar to the packed earth walls used in the construction of Earthships (refer to our December issue of Resilient Strategies for more information on this interesting idea). If you recall, Earthships rarely require an external heating source because the thick walls maintain a constant temperature throughout the year in a variety of climates.

My guess is that a 3D printed home created with contour crafting would demonstrate similar properties; yet another reason why this technology could become the “norm” for construction projects around the world.

Like so many of the 3D printing advancements we have already discussed here, exactly how this technique will look in the real world is still somewhat shrouded in mystery. The technology is here now and the mechanical components only weigh about 500 lbs, so it’s certainly feasible to assume that this technology could be in the hands of contractors in the next few years. In fact, you can see contour crafting in action by visiting contourcrafting.org to see how developed this technology has already become.

Will every American own a contour crafting 3D printer? No…but even just a handful of these units in a given geographical region could have an enormous impact on housing in the near future and I look forward to seeing how this technology plays out as a sustainable building strategy within this decade.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • vera

    Interesting. They say they are hooked up with CalEarth to use inexpensive (and low expended energy) earthen materials in the future.
    http://calearth.org/learn-to-build/workshops.html

    But… CalEarth’s vision has called for a technique that anyone can do, from grandmas to kiddies, to build their own house. This would give it to robots.

    • Sharn

      Thanks Vera – agree. Resilient communities should surely be focussing on sustainable renewable materials with low embodied energy. Hmmm. Robots and concrete. Not the future I was really aspiring to.

    • Tammy Davis

      Yes, my thoughts exactly. Perhaps this is the disconnect between the back to nature transitioning movements (using modern technology and ancestral knowledge) and the Zeitgeist movement that seems very sterile and isolated from the natural world. I feel that one of the most vital aspects of relearning resilience is the reunification of people to one another and to nature.

  • Naeem

    How owudl this new method affect the employment rate though. If this machine can comeplte the construction with minimal labour costs. It woudl no point being able to build “inexpensive” houses if there would be fewer people who oudl actually buy them because of unemployment.
    Just a thought, maybe i am off on a tangent. I do see the benefits and ackowledge the innovation but we shoudl also think about people. One hand feeds the other.

    • Grammar Cop

      Hi Naeem,

      Please repeat after me… WOULD, COULD, SHOULD

      Practice daily

      Thanks

    • Tammy Davis

      I agree, natural building seems to be the best method. It is available and accessible to everyone on earth and it can be achieved without money. The Earth does not discriminate.

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This Week in Resilience May 19, 2013
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