Are huge 3D printers the future of construction? In the embedded TEDx video, Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis from USC explains and demonstrates how building customized, eco-friendly houses with large 3D printers is not only possible, he and his team are already showing how it can be done.
As the construction, or rather contour crafting, is completed with a 3D printer, each building is built up layer by layer, rather than piece by piece in the case of traditional construction. Amazingly, structural reinforcement, plumbing, electrical installation, and even exterior painting can also be done using similar methods. It is anticipated that a average size house with a custom design could be built in as little as 20 hours!
Anyone who has had a house built or renovated will know that curves are very expensive with current construction methods. With this technology, any curves could be produced at the same price as rectangular shapes and angles. Therefore, it is thought that architectural standards could really benefit from this new method.
Additionally, Professor Khoshnevis points out that rectangular walls are actually the worst kind of walls as far as strength is concerned, so earthquake-prone areas would certainly benefit, and at little or no extra cost.
3D printers could also build much larger buildings than houses, using printers with multiple print heads. Printers could also climb up tall buildings as their construction progresses, to build multiple-level structures.
It is asserted that contour crafting with 3D printers is very environmentally friendly, as the resulting C02 emissions are only a “small fraction” of current construction methods. Energy use is also very low.
In terms of costs compared to current construction methods, financing is said to be 20-25% lower, materials costs 25-30% lower, and labor a massive 45-55% lower.
The professor points out that when discussing the potential of this new method of construction, people often raise concerns about a lot of people potentially being put out of construction jobs. To allay this fear, Khoshnevis maintains that a lot of new, yet different kinds of jobs will be created in the construction sector, and they may well be available to people who do not currently have the opportunity to work in the sector. If we look to history, new economies and jobs are always created when new technologies make older skills and jobs redundant.
What do you think about this new and emerging construction method for buildings? Do you think it’s the future of building, or just a concept that will never take off?