Contour Crafting May Upend the Construction Industry

This year’s winner of the Create the Future design contest might have totally changed the game for the construction industry. The annual competition, sponsored by Comsol, Mouser Electronics, Analog Devices, and Intel, was launched in 2002 by the publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine to stimulate and reward engineering innovation. USC Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Dr. Berokh Khoshnevis  is the inventor of the Contour Crafting method, a computerized construction process that prints large-scale 3-D structures directly from Architectural CAD models.

Using a four-person crew and simple, inexpensive building materials, the Contour Crafting method forms structural walls from paste-like materials  like concrete, which is extruded in layers directly onto the site and then smoothed into place by a robotic trowel. This flexible building technique easily produces curvilinear organic structures as well the more traditional rectilinear shapes, which has drawn significant attention from architects around the world. Because it uses the precisely necessary amount of building material, the Contour Crafting method radically reduces construction waste.

Contemporary 3-D construction techniques fabricate blocks and components, which are assembled on-site. Contour Crafting is the only technology that builds entire structures on-site. Construction time and costs are drastically reduced with the Contour Crafting method, which makes it ideal for building affordable housing in developing countries and for quickly erecting emergency shelters, hospitals, and food warehouses in disaster-torn areas.

Dr. Khoshnevis has been contracted by NASA to bring his automated construction technology into space. Contour crafting would allow scientists to build laboratories and housing structures in space to host long-term research projects.

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