Contour Crafting: 3D House Printer
Perhaps you've used those programs that let you design your dream house, creating a Computer Aided Design (CAD) file. Not quite ready to take up the hammer and start building? Can you imagine a device large enough to let you "print" your house right straight from the drawings?
Behrokh Khoshnevis (USC Engineering) has been perfecting his contour crafter. The material used is a semi-liquid quick-setting, concrete-like compound. The system is able to make calls to onsite experts for insertion of plumbing and wiring as the construction effort proceeds.
House construction is an incredibly wasteful process. It is estimated that builders in the United States generate approximately 31 million tons of construction waste, almost one-quarter of the total municipal solid waste stream in the United States. Khoshnevis claims that contour crafting could substantially reduce these numbers.
Dr. Khoshnevis' goal?
"The goal is to be able to completely construct a one-story, 2000-square foot home on site, in one day and without using human hands."
This robot takes instructions from a CAD drawing and then squirts layers of semi-liquid construction material to build up vertical walls and domed roofs. The device runs on tracks that enclose the proposed structure like a container ship crane. The first house is scheduled to be built in 2005. [Note: April, 2007 is the announced date.]
There are a couple of science fiction tie-ins for this idea. For a hotel that puts itself together (albeit brick-by-brick) see Bambakias Hotel, from Bruce Sterling's 1998 novel Distraction. Another interesting idea that uses a similar technique on a small scale is nanofax, from William Gibson's 1999 novel All Tomorrow's Parties: this item has an extensive discussion of stereolithography, a method of rapid prototyping that is the direct ancestor of contour crafting.
Khoshnevis has plans for the Moon as well:
"We plan to explore the applicability of the CC
technology for building habitats on the Moon
The lunar regolith, for example, may
be used as the construction material. Other
researchers have shown that lunar regolith can
be sintered using microwave to produce
construction materials such as bricks. We
envision a Contour Crafting system that uses a
limited amount of water to form a small batch of
the lunar material into paste form. Once
extruded and deposited in the desirable location,
the water could be extracted and recycled for the
next batch of material. Microwave sintering
using solar power can be integrated into the
system and hence progressively cured structures of various complexities could be built."
(Automated Construction using Contour Crafting - Applications on Earth and Beyond)
Update 01-Feb-2007 See also this follow-up article: Contour Crafting House Printer Nears Test. (End Update.)
Update 01-Feb-2014The earliest sf reference (not to mention the earliest reference period) that I know of for 3D printing is from Things Pass By, a 1945 story by Murray Leinster:
It makes drawings in the air following drawings it scans with photo-cells. But plastic comes out of the end of the drawing arm and hardens as it comes. This thing will start at one end of a ship or a house and build it complete to the other end, following drawings only.
(Read more about Leinster's Plastic Constructor)
For more details see Robot Builder could 'print' houses (NewScientist.com). Don't miss the very cool animation showing how it works:
Animation of Contour Crafting in House Construction.
Contour Crafting and Selective Inhibition of Sintering provides additional details and links.
Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 3/11/2004)
Follow this kind of news @Technovelgy.
| Email | RSS | Blog It | Stumble | del.icio.us | Digg | Reddit |
you like to contribute a story tip?
Get the URL of the story, and the related sf author, and add
Comment/Join discussion ( 11 )
Related News Stories -
A 'Genuine Nanorobotic Production Factory'
'Microscopic machinery, smaller than ants, smaller than pins, working energetically, purposefully - constructing something...' - Philip K Dick, 1955.
Made In Space To Manufacture Optical Fiber In Orbit
'Mass-produced only in the orbiting factories...' - Arthur C. Clarke, 1978.
Self-Assembling Bacteria Build A Pressure Sensor
Nature is a master of fabricating structured materials consisting of living and non-living components.
Artificial Spider Silk
You can also use it to make a roof - on an asteroid.
Technovelgy (that's tech-novel-gee!)
is devoted to the creative science inventions and ideas of sf authors. Look for
the Invention Category that interests
you, the Glossary, the Invention
Timeline, or see what's New.
IBM's Grain Of Sand Computer
'Our ancestors... thought to make the very sand beneath their feet intelligent...'
Liquid Metal Shape-Changing 'Soft Robotics'
'A mimetic poly-alloy... 'What the hell does that mean?''
The Hammock Caravan And Italo Calvino's Octavia
'Now I will tell you how Octavia, the spider-web city, is made.'
Super-Resolution Microscopy Provides '4D' Views
View the magnified interior of living cells.
Have I Seen The Tesla Roadster Story Before?
'Only it wasn't a vessel. It was an automobile...'
Watch 'Do You Trust This Computer' For Free Today
Thanks for making this available, Elon.
Self-Driving Car Ticketed
This just missed making my day.
Elon Musk Tweets Versions Of Clarke's Operation Cleanup
'Fortunately, the old orbital forts were superbly equipped for this task.'
Burner Generates Temporary Phone Numbers
'Interesting phone system he's got, by the way...'
Walmart’s Autonomous Robot Bees
Everyone loves bees.
EA Created AI That Taught Itself To Play Battlefield
Harmless fun for computer scientists.
Is Teleportation A Death Sentence?
'A long trail of dead, he thought, left across the stars...'
New Brain Scanner Lets You Move Around
'In Bob Arctor's living room his thousand dollar custom-quality cephscope crafted by Altec...'
Can An Entire Brain Be Simulated In A Computer?
'The miles of relays and photocells had given way to the spongy globe of platinum iridium about the size of the human brain.'
Physicists Try To Turn Light Into Matter
If E=mc squared, then... m=E/c squared!
Save Your Brain's Connectome, Upload Yourself Elsewhere
'You've got remote storage. How regular is the update?'
More SF in the News Stories
More Beyond Technovelgy science news stories