BY THE ENGINEER -
Did we not tell you how awesome this 3D printing is going to be? Here’s another fantastic feat which has been pulled off by 3D printing and well, we are amazed to say the least. The gadget in question is a Giant 3D printer which prints concrete and is able to – Get this – build a home, 2,500 Sq. ft, in only one day while printing it layer by layer. This research is being carried out in the University of Southern California with a huge 3D printer.
Meet Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, who is the designer of this awesome gadget. According to him, what they are doing is ‘basically scaling up 3D printing to the scale of building.’ Well, bravo professor! The technology is being called Contour Crafting and this will no doubt revolutionize the construction industry and how it operates.
The uses of this are immense of course. Imagine how the cost of owning a house would reduce and the miracles this technology will be able to perform in case of a disaster. Replacement homes would be built in days to cater for the need of victims. This could also be used to come up with shelter buildings for those who are trying to survive in severe conditions. Khoshnevis said; ‘At the dawn of the 21st century [slums] are the condition of shelter for nearly one billion people in our world. These buildings are breeding grounds for disease a problem of conventional construction which is slow, labor intensive and inefficient.’ He also pointed out how everything is being made via automated systems and said; ‘Your shoes, your clothes, home appliances, your car. The only thing that is still built by hand are these buildings.’
So how does this Contour Crafting work really? Basically the Contour Crafting system is a robot which has an array of tools that are used by workers and they allow it to build 3D objects. Brad lemley from Discovery magazine said; ‘Ultimately it would work like this; On a cleared and leveled site, workers would lay down two rails a few feet further apart than the eventual building’s width and a computer-controlled contour crafter would take over from there. A gantry-type crane with a hanging nozzle and a components-placing arm would travel along the rails. The nozzle would spit out concrete in layers to create hollow walls, and then fill in the walls with additional concrete… humans would hang doors and insert windows.’
Khoshnevis further elaborates; ‘It’s a CAD/CAM solution; designed on computer and built by a computer. Contour Crafting hopes to generate entire neighborhoods built at a fraction of the cost, in a fraction of the time, far more safely, and with architectural flexibility that is unprecedented.
Those of you who are wondering what quality structures are we looking at here; a wall generated by Contour Crafting has strength of 10,000 psi. A conventionally built wall has strength of 3,000 psi. Professor Khoshnevis said; ‘You can have multi-nozzle machines and even have the structure climb the building.’ So that means we can also build multi-storey buildings.
No, the structures built by Contour Crafting won’t look alike. Remember, the building is built as per design so all you need to do is to alter the design and there you go.
Khoshnevis, in this context, said; ‘every [Contour Crafted] building can be different. They do not have to look like track houses because all you have to do is change a computer program.’ Furthermore, this Contour Crafting will allow for more complex structures to be built quite easily, like Khoshnevis told us; ‘The walls can be curved. You can have very exotic architectural features without incurring additional costs.’
One may argue that this technology will put out a lot of workers from their jobs and Khoshnevis responds with this; ‘There is concern about people being put out of construction jobs. The reality is that a lot of new jobs can be created in this sector as well. Construction is a hazardous job. It is more dangerous than mining and agriculture. It kills 10,000 people every year [and] because of all the different trade and managements structures, the process is pretty corruption prone. It is very costly and always over budget.’
Nasa and Cal-Earth Institute are funding the research and Khoshnevis seems quite hopeful about this technology making it to the top when he says; ‘This technology is like a rock that we have rolled to the top of a cliff. Just one little push and the idea will roll along on its own.’