3-D printers can make airplanes and their parts, food and more — why not entire buildings? A professor at the University of Southern California aims to print out whole houses, using layers of concrete and adding plumbing, electrical wiring and other guts as it moves upward.
Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis at USC created a layered fabrication method he calls Contour Crafting, which he says can be used to build a single house or “a colony of houses.” It could be used with concrete or adobe, he says. Khoshnevis has been developing the system for several years and hosted a presentation about it at a recent TEDx event.
It would use a movable gantry taller than the house you want to build. Concrete pours out and is set down layer by layer, like a typical 3-D printer would sinter plastic together. It could be ideal for emergency housing, commercial or low-income structures, but it could also be used to print out customized luxury homes, according to Khoshnevis. Or, he adds, it might be ideal for the moon or Mars. “Contour Crafting technology has the potential to build safe, reliable, and affordable lunar and Martian structures, habitats, laboratories, and other facilities before the arrival of human beings,” his website reads.
Khoshnevis is hardly the only 3-D printing expert advocating this — Enrico Dini, the Italian inventor of the D-Shape 3-D printer, wants to 3-D print moon buildings out of lunar regolith.
On Earth, the automated system could prevent delays, injuries and other labor issues related to human workers. With this system, maybe a 3-D printer could beat the Chinese attempt to construct the world’s tallest building in three months.