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Are 3D-Printed Homes the Future of Affordable Housing?

Are 3D-Printed Homes the Future of Affordable Housing?

Researchers say robots can build homes in 24 hours

What if a builder said she could deliver your 2,500 square foot house months earlier than a competitor -- say in 24 hours?

Would you skip the weeks or months of issues with weather, shipping or materials delays and labor disputes if the house could be assembled by a 3D printer?

3D printing can produce concrete molds in various shapes, including curved walls, demonstrated in this computer image. (Credit: Contour Crafting).

Researchers at the University of Southern California are betting you will. Since 2008, Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis has led a research team in the creation and development of a new layered fabrication technology using 3D printing called Contour Crafting. Instead of using thermoplastics, a common material used in 3D printing, the robot applies layer after layer of concrete to construct straight and curved walls, as well as domes, reported Mashable.

The advanced process is actually quite simple: a computer program guides a giant robot with a delivery nozzle on a flexible arm and gantry-type crane. The rig - dubbed a 'contour crafter' - then proceeds to layer concrete based on the architect's pattern. The layers of concrete or other materials can be delivered alone or in between pre-fashioned barriers; the layered material will eventually take shape into walls, with the same gaps a standard construction plan would allow for plumbing, windows or even chimneys.

If the whole process seems a little far-fetched, just wait until you see where the research team hopes the robotic construction system may end up.

Lunar (or beyond) colonies are just one vision for Contour Crafting, as they simulate in this computer image. I doubt they've tested the 3D printer in a gravity free environment. (Credit: Contour Crafting).

The "CC Technology" is still currently a university project, so it has not yet arrived on the commercial market, according to the Contour Crafting Web site, but the team sees future applications that range from residential housing and disaster relief and beyond; they anticipate this type of technology may be used one day to build space colonies.

Contour has several videos to highlight the technology, this one demonstrates the layering capabilities of their prototype.


(H/T: Mashable)

Follow Elizabeth Kreft (@elizabethakreft) on Twitter.

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