USC Professor Wins NASA Award for 3D House Printing Process

Most of us have heard of the incredible things being done today in the 3D printing world. These innovations run from the banal, (3D printing a personalized action figure of yourself), to the incredible, (3D printing your own car). Now a even bolder utilization for 3D printing is being developed at the University of Southern California by engineering professor, Behrokh Khoshnevis. The professor wants to print houses! If you can imagine an enormous dot matrix paper printer that distributes not ink but concrete, you've got some idea of what Professor Khoshnevis is aiming for. Apparently, he's not the only one that sees the potential in this house printing idea because this week he won the Grand Prize ($20,000) for the NASA Tech Briefs magazine’s “Create the Future” contest. His entry was entitled, “Robotic Building Construction by Contour Crafting.” The judging panel saw the idea of Contour Crafting (CC) as a revolutionary construction method and a “major innovation” that could potentially 3D print entire neighborhoods in half the time and at 30 percent less cost than traditional building methods. CC is a computerized construction method that 3D prints large-scale structures directly from architectural CAD models. Walls are built up by forming their outer surfaces via extrusion of a paste-like material, such as concrete, and the use of a robotic trowel to provide a smooth contoured surface. CC is a very flexible technique, capable of constructing aesthetically pleasing “organic” curvilinear shapes as easily as “boxy” rectilinear shapes; and, as such, it has attracted strong interest from leading architects. In Khoshvenis' TED talk, he explains that his motivation for developing CC systems is humanitarian at its core. Since traditional construction models are slow, labor intensive, dangerous, and environmentally unfriendly, he wants to replace them with the quicker, completely automated, safer, and greener CC systems. More importantly, he believes CC provides a viable solution for the world-wide housing problem many nations currently face. The video below provides an explanation of a possible CC systems and how the process of printing a two-story home might work.