Nearly 1 billion people in the world do not have access to adequate shelter. These conditions breed poverty, disease, crime, and illiteracy, among other problems. In an effort to solve this problem, Behrokh Khoshnevis, director of the Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Southern California, stepped up to the plate by using 3D printers.
3D Printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is the process of making three dimensional objects from a digital model. This end is achieved using additive processes, in which an object is created by adding successive layers of material until it is completed. The machines have experienced a huge growth in popularity recently and, consequently, their prices have dropped.
During a 2012 TED talk in Ojai, California, Khoshnevis shared his new 3D printing development – a process called Contour Crafting.
Contour Crafting uses 3D printers in order to build entire houses. Khoshnevis said that the machines are able to build a 2,500 square-foot house in as little as 20 hours. And these machines don’t only put up walls – they are able to implement tricky tasks, such as the electrical work, plumbing, tiling, finishing work, and even painting.
Khoshnevis’s presentation (which can be seen here) utilized a video to prove the power of these 3D printers. The problem, Khoshnevis said, lies in traditional construction that often incurs high costs due to hazardous conditions (construction kills 10,000 people every year). To keep these costs down, machines take over. The walls these machines create are hollow (in order to save money on materials and make them lighter). At the same time, however, the walls are much stronger than normal walls – withstanding about 10,000 psi.
Even more incredible is the fact that the 3D printers can print curves, allowing the buildings to be not only structurally sound but also aesthetically pleasing.
“What we are hoping to generate are entire neighborhoods that are dignified at a fraction of the cost, a fraction of the time, far more safely and with architectural flexibility that would be unprecedented,” Khoshnevis said.
The project even offers job growth: Khoshnevis pointed out that Contour Crafting will provide women and older workers a chance to work in new areas of construction.
“There will always be better economies resulted from the advancement and utilization of technologies that just make sense,” Khoshnevis said.
Khoshnevis estimated that Contour Crafting will save the construction 20-25% in financing and 25-30% in materials. The biggest savings would come in labor, where Contour Crafting would save 45-55% by using 3D printers instead of human workers. A reduction in energy usage and CO2 emissions would also be witnessed, making this project quite the promising package.
– Samantha Davis