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Building Houses with a 3D Printer

From the Printware Blog on Friday 17th August 2012 in 3D Printing

What if you could build a house in just 24 hours using a 3D printer? Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But that's just what an engineer from the University of Southern California is proposing. Behrokh Khoshnevis believes that he can "print" a 2,000 square foot house with embedded utilities in a day, using a process called Contour Crafting.

Contour Crafting works in much the same way as traditional 3D printing but uses concrete, rather than molten plastic, as the substrate. The technique makes use of crane- or gantry-mounted nozzles, through which the special concrete mix is extruded. As the nozzles follow a pre-determined path, the concrete is squeezed out at a constant rate to build up the foundations and walls of the house. A system of moveable trowels moulds the concrete into the desired shape as it exits the nozzles, allowing a great deal of flexibility in the design.

Khoshnevis has demonstrated the potential of the design by printing a six foot concrete wall but has yet to scale this up to anything approaching a full sized house. He is convinced, however, that the system will work and claims that houses built using Contour Crafting will not only be cheaper and faster to build but will use far fewer construction materials, significantly reducing environmental impact compared with traditional methods.

Now, we often get excited about new technology and love to applaud innovation and creativity but there is a cautionary note here. A quick trawl of the web might lead you to believe that this process is new and that 3D printing houses could be just around the corner but the idea has been around for quite some time already. In fact, Khoshnevis first built his wall back in 2004 and was hoping to build his first full-scale house early in 2005. Over seven years later, the process is still in development and many of the systems required to create a house using Contour Crafting are still on the drawing board.

The idea of using a 3D printer to build houses quickly and cheaply is an intriguing one but far from new and, it seems, still a long way from being realised. We’d love to see it work but, for now at least, the excitement will have to remain on hold.

What do you think about the idea of building houses using a 3D printer? Is it a cheap way to build houses for those on a low income, or a recipe for mass unemployment in the building industry? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. 

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by Anthony Morgan

Posted in 3D Printing

Feel free to leave a comment:

Tuesday 28th August 2012 - Jonathon Bamber

It just so happens I was talking about this the other day and the concept of having a maching build a house 24hours a day for however many days it takes. This would revolutionise the housing market and lead to infinate designs of houses that can be made. But what about the work force that currently builds houses without work, will they become the homeless this article talks about building houses for!!!!?

Thursday 30th August 2012 - Jo Perez

Wow great story, the video was brilliant. I hope to design my own house to print one day.

Thursday 30th August 2012 - Anthony Morgan, Printware

A valid point, Jonathon and it raises an interesting ethical dilemma - can we square job losses in the building industry with cheap housing for the homeless? Technology tends to move forward relentlessly and we find ourselves having to adapt to the change but is it always a change for the better?

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