Contour crafting enables enhanced speed of fabrication with superior finish.
Heard of a method of constructing buildings directly from an architectural computer model by extruding concrete layer by layer? Contour crafting (CC) it is! This is a layered fabrication technology developed by Dr Behrokh Khoshnevis, Professor, University of Southern California, which enables automatic construction of a single house or colony of houses, each with a possibly different design, in a single run. And consider this: By using materials readily available at the build site, construction by CC can build houses or a colony of houses with all electrical and plumbing utilities in less than 24 hours per house.
This is a research project and the technology has not yet been commercialised. ¨We will have to pass the regulatory stage to be allowed to use the technology in real situations,¨ says Dr Khoshnevis.
Interestingly, for Dr Khoshnevis, this concept developed differently. ¨My vision was to build large structures for industrial use but then I found the main potential of my invention in building construction,¨ he shares. The potential applications of this technology are far reaching, including but not limited to applications in low-income housing and emergency shelters. The project has also encompassed exploration of the use of various ceramics and construction materials.
The chief advantages of the CC process over existing technologies are the superior surface finish realised and enhanced speed of fabrication. The success of the technology stems from the automated use of age-old tools normally wielded by hand, combined with conventional robotics and an innovative approach to building three-dimensional objects that allows rapid fabrication times.
Owing to the nature of this technology, materials are extruded with perfect precision and near zero waste.
CC offers construction without waste, noise, dust or harmful emissions.
Dr Khoshnevis elaborates, ¨This is achieved by reducing the duration of construction and eliminating so many trips back and forth to the site by the construction crew.¨ As a result, the construction is environment-friendly and sustainable. Moreover, the automated robotics technology results in fewer labour injuries and lower human and financial costs of construction. In essence, it will prove much safer for both the worker and the environment.
The India angle
When asked why a developing country like India should adopt this technology, Dr Khoshnevis responds, ¨It can eradicate slums at a reasonable cost.¨ He further adds, ¨While the cost of construction can come down to a third of what it is today, speed of construction could be 50 times higher.¨
Every day, developing countries have to accommodate 150,000 additional urban dwellers. While large cities in developing countries have been growing at rates nearing 5 per cent per year, slums and squatter settlements have been growing nearly twice as fast. Hence, new and innovative means of constructing shelter must be considered.
That said, even neighbouring China has been exploring cheaper alternatives and is building 10 houses per day. It´s certainly time for India a country plagued by project delays - to consider and step up the use of such innovations.
The possibilities are out of the world!
As for the future direction of Contour Crafting, a relatively large multidisciplinary research team at the University of Southern California will investigate the application of the technology in the construction of modern civil structures, in fine arts to create large ceramic sculptures and, most exciting, the construction of structures on the moon and Mars that are being targeted for human colonisation.