This Robot Can Print a House in 24 Hours

3D printed homes

It seems like you can make just about any little nicknack with a 3D printer these days, but what about large-scale items?

What if you could design a home with CAD/CAM software and then use a 3D printer to construct it? A company called Contour Crafting is working to make this futuristic idea become a reality.

Developed by Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California, the contour crafter—a 3D printing robot—fabricates large-scale parts quickly in a layer-by-layer method.

Instead of using thermoplastics, the robot, which looks like a crane with a hanging delivery nozzle, layers concrete to create walls based on an architect’s design. It reinforces the walls as it builds, and leaves spaces for things like plumbing and electric. After the robot is finished, human construction workers come in to finish up details such as hanging doors and putting up windows.

According to Contour Crafting, a wall created by the 3D printer and tested in-house has 10,000 PSI (pounds per square inch) strength, versus an average 3,000 PSI for a regularly constructed wall, meaning that these printed structures will be stronger than your typical building.

Having to wait months for a home could also be a thing of the past. Dr. Khoshnevis and his team say their machine can build a 2,500 square-foot house in less than 24 hours, which not only cuts an immense amount of time from the construction process, but also would save on cost.

Could this innovation potentially revolutionize the construction industry?

The general consensus is that yes, it very well could. The research team behind Contour Crafting believes that this technology could cut down on the cost of owning a home, and it could also provide potential relief for the millions of people across the globe who have been displaced by natural disasters and war.

Do you think there’s a use for 3D printed homes?

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9 thoughts on “This Robot Can Print a House in 24 Hours”

  1. Ray says:

    So, high strength concrete house in 24-hours. Sounds great, but how does it compare to wood frame houses for thermal insulation and earthquake tolerance? Can it build a basement? Would the plumbing be built into the wall, or added after? How about other environmental design considerations like passive heating/cooling through fluid or air movement in or along the walls? How complex a design can this house printer handle?

  2. Michelle Reis says:

    Ray,

    My understanding is that this machine focuses mainly on building the frame of the home, there has been no comment regarding basements.

    The Contour crafting tool does allow builders to create sub components so all of the pieces for electric, plumbing, and air conditioning are in place. They’ve also has stated in recent interviews that they are working on improving this process so that the ability to eject and shape concrete would be able to occur at the same that other arms insert plumbing, wiring, insulation, etc. instead of just building in areas where they would go.

  3. Dave says:

    Great Article. Can the tool print stairs?

  4. Michelle Reis says:

    Thank you Dave,

    In it’s current iteration I do not believe that it is being used to print stairs, but I have seen some printed designs that have a step-like look so it’s a possibility that they will use the robot to create stairs in the future.

    Right now the focus is on building the ‘exoskeleton’ of a home in a short amount of time. I do believe the printing does take floor plans of multi-story buildings into consideration, leaving room for the addition of stairs.

    1. Ron says:

      If you say how the roof was made, the simplest way to create ‘steps’ would be an additional programming sequence using layering with smaller horizontals.

  5. Bill says:

    Neat concept, I’m not aware of any concrete that sets up that fast. Good idea though.

  6. Tim says:

    Being an A/E engineer I suspect this is what obsolescence feels like.

  7. paul filippi says:

    are there any real buildings built this way yet? the website seems to be scholarly wholly.

    there is a lot of knowledge about cement construction in the seminal work “a pattern language” that could/should be implemented into into this “idea”
    especially the info on domed living spaces.

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