Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California has developed a 3-D printing technology suitable for building large structures such as homes or commercial facilities. Called Contour Crafting, it could be used to create a single house or a whole neighborhood of houses in a single production run. Each house could have a different design, and all conduits for plumbing, wiring and air conditioning would be built...er, printed in.
As with current rapid prototyping technology, CC would build a home layer by layer from a variety of materials ranging from various ceramics to adobe. The goal is to be able to create a 2000 square-foot, one-story building in one day from a 3-D model in a computer. The system employs a robotic crane mounted on tracks similar to a container ship crane. It has enormous potential for saving lives and resources, while providing creatively-designed and affordable homes.
From the Contour Crafting website:
Every year in the United States, 400,000 workers are seriously injured or killed doing construction work. Construction work is dangerous and takes to high a toll on human life and human resources. Resulting litigation from work place injuries areincreasingly raising the overall costs of construction. Waste is also a major concern for conventional construction methods. Construction of a typical single family home generates a waste stream of 3 to 7 tons. Globally more than 40 percent of all raw materials are consumed in the construction process. Construction, in addition to wasting valuable resources, contributes significantly to environmentally harmful emissions.
Building a contour-crafted structure would create virtually no waste, and since it is a robotic production method, it would create no danger for workers. One "objection" to this process would be the loss of high-paying, if risky, construction jobs. However, combined with renewable energy and an efficient recycling and resource-utilization technology, CC could help usher in an "internet of things" in which "stuff" is free or nearly free, so that humans can be liberated from the job culture to engage in more creative and life-affirming things than "work."