You Wouldn’t Download a House, Would You?

Rendering of a house being built with Contour Craft.

You would if the director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) at USC, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis has his way, because his “Contour Crafting” system uses 3-D printing technology to reduce the time and cost that it takes to build houses and public buildings.

The massive gantry-and-rail system, around the size of and resembling an large overhead crane, would be either built around a building site, or ingeniously deployed from a purpose-built truck, and would construct buildings by depositing layer after layer of material to create a form that could be filled with concrete or other materials. The key to the work is the design of the nozzle, which consists of three pipes attached to each other. The two smaller pipes on either side of the larger, center pipe would deposit the form material, and are each fitted with a sideways mounted trowel which guarantees that each new layer is seamlessly blended with the layer beneath, leaving what Khoshelvis has described as a “ready to paint surface.” The large center pipe would be used to deposit the material (probably concrete) to complete the wall. The entire process would be controlled by computer, and would be completed within hours.

Rendering of building in progress, with zoom on nozzle design.

Various iterations on the process have included auxiliary robotic arms fitted on the gantry in order to lay conduit or ducting as the forms are built, and current designs include full 6-axis articulation of the nozzle, enabling material to be deposited from the sides or beneath, rather than simply from above.

The process would also offer a large reduction in the cost of building the forms of curved concrete walls, as the current manual process to do so is expensive, time-consuming and error-prone.



I am a Boston Model 18 pencil sharpener with wood grain decoration.

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  1. This sounds like pretty incredible technology. I look forward to seeing if this takes off and is utilized in the near future. I wonder how big that nozzle would be?