Contour Crafting: 3D House Printer
Perhaps you've used those programs that let you design your dream house, creating a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file. Not quite ready to take up the hammer and start building? Can you imagine a device large enough to let you "print" your house right straight from the drawings?
Behrokh Khoshnevis (USC Engineering) has been perfecting his contour crafter. The material used is a semi-liquid quick-setting, concrete-like compound. The system is able to make calls to onsite experts for insertion of plumbing and wiring as the construction effort proceeds.
House construction is an incredibly wasteful process. It is estimated that builders in the United States generate approximately 31 million tons of construction waste, almost one-quarter of the total municipal solid waste stream in the United States. Khoshnevis claims that contour crafting could substantially reduce these numbers.
Dr. Khoshnevis' goal?
"The goal is to be able to completely construct a one-story, 2000-square foot home on site, in one day and without using human hands."
This robot takes instructions from a CAD drawing and then squirts layers of semi-liquid construction material to build up vertical walls and domed roofs. The device runs on tracks that enclose the proposed structure like a container ship crane. The first house is scheduled to be built in 2005. [Note: April, 2007 is the announced date.]
There are a couple of science fiction tie-ins for this idea. For a hotel that puts itself together (albeit brick-by-brick) see Bambakias Hotel, from Bruce Sterling's 1998 novel Distraction. Another interesting idea that uses a similar technique on a small scale is nanofax, from William Gibson's 1999 novel All Tomorrow's Parties: this item has an extensive discussion of stereolithography, a method of rapid prototyping that is the direct ancestor of contour crafting.
Khoshnevis has plans for the Moon as well:
"We plan to explore the applicability of the CC
technology for building habitats on the Moon
The lunar regolith, for example, may
be used as the construction material. Other
researchers have shown that lunar regolith can
be sintered using microwave to produce
construction materials such as bricks. We
envision a Contour Crafting system that uses a
limited amount of water to form a small batch of
the lunar material into paste form. Once
extruded and deposited in the desirable location,
the water could be extracted and recycled for the
next batch of material. Microwave sintering
using solar power can be integrated into the
system and hence progressively cured structures of various complexities could be built."
(Automated Construction using Contour Crafting - Applications on Earth and Beyond)
Update 01-Feb-2007 See also this follow-up article: Contour Crafting House Printer Nears Test. (End Update.)
Update 01-Feb-2014The earliest sf reference (not to mention the earliest reference period) that I know of for 3D printing is from Things Pass By, a 1945 story by Murray Leinster:
It makes drawings in the air following drawings it scans with photo-cells. But plastic comes out of the end of the drawing arm and hardens as it comes. This thing will start at one end of a ship or a house and build it complete to the other end, following drawings only.
(Read more about Leinster's Plastic Constructor)
For more details see Robot Builder could 'print' houses (NewScientist.com). Don't miss the very cool animation showing how it works:
Animation of Contour Crafting in House Construction.
Contour Crafting and Selective Inhibition of Sintering provides additional details and links.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/11/2004)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 11 )
Related News Stories -
3D Printing With Sunlight And Sand
'We made a crude, small cell and were delighted...' - John W. Campbell, 1950.
As Big As A Biltong - World's Largest 3D Printer
'Huge and old, it squatted in the center of the settlement park... On the concrete platform... lay a heap of originals to be duplicated.' - Philip K. Dick, 1956.
The Dawn Of Orbiting Manufacturing In 2020?
'It can be mass-produced only in the orbiting factories.' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.
Orbital Manufacturer 'Made in Space' Gets $73 Million NASA Contract
'Mass-produced in the orbiting factories...' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
Looking Glass Display Good Enough For Science Fiction, Fantasy
'The figure seemed to be swimming toward the surface.'
Do You Need The Entire Fembot? Maybe Just The Hand
'...Men don't want real women anymore. You and I are behind the times...'
3D Printing With Sunlight And Sand
'We made a crude, small cell and were delighted...'
Samsung Gets Transparent Smartphone Patent
The Transparency of Things to Come
Monkey Gets A Bigger Brain, Thanks To Human Gene
'It's a madhouse! a madhouse!'
Solar Power Beamed From Space Studied By Brit Boffins
'Our beams feed these worlds energy drawn from... the Sun.'
Pandemic Entrepreneurs! Consider Robo Esso Robot Barista
'... the perpetual beam carved in the robot face of the bartender, the classic Irish grin.'
Shape-Shifting Robot From MIT
'... the structure of that shape is retained down to the molecules.'
Tesla's 20,000 Superchargers
'To recharge the batteries, which can be done in almost every town and village...'
Smallest Rogue Planet Discovered In Milky Way
'...a swarm of rogue planets chanced by.'
New Technology For Interplanetary Communication
'... sweating, heat-blistered engineers at every interplanetary radiograph station on three planets, stood by their generators.'
First Lunar Water, Then... Monolith?
'It looks brand new, doesn't it?'
Flying Robot Inspired By Hawks
'The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops...'
Jet-Powered Flying Suits Tested By Navy
'With his motor in operation, he moves like a diver, head foremost...'
Pub Installs Electrified Fence Around Bar
'I start twelve immensely strong wires--naked, not insulated --from a big dynamo...'
What Does A Tesla Full Self-Driving Car See?
'All objects within my panoramic gaze trembled and vibrated like quick motion pictures...'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories