We've seen the future and it's 3D printed houses we'd wager. Cool!

9 August 2012


Once upon a time for six months, I lived opposite a construction site, and enjoyed seeing a whole house go up bit by bit – the different levels, the roof-beams, the plastic-y material flapping around on the wind as roof-tiles were added on top. Anyway, the gradual process was interesting for an observer but must have been unpleasant and occasionally frustrating for the workers, scaling various heights and battling the elements. But that usual building scenario may be about to take a turn, if Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California has his way.

Acknowledging that in the world of product design, almost everything is made automatically, he has been exploring the option of “scaling-up” the three-dimensional printing process, enabling it to build walls, roofs… even skyscrapers. Using cemente-like materials, the contour printer builds up structural elements layer by layer – in action, it’s like looking at a robotic baker piping icing onto a cake.

Although the animations that illustrate Khoshnevis’ TED talk demonstrate the development with conventionally shaped houses, he emphasises that the printing machine in fact liberates architectural construction from conventional geometry, and allows for a considered approach to building, say, in earthquake-prone environments. What’s more, some projects could take as little as 20 hours to construct, and with minimal time, low labour-usage, and very little waste occurring, we wonder if this is what all construction sites will look like not too far from now.

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Catherine Gaffney

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