It could change construction

Contour Crafting is a prototype 3D printing technique using a special quick-setting concrete. Its creators at the University of Southern California in the USA say it might be able to print an entire house in as little as 24 hours, and even print colonies on Mars.

Invented by Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, Contour Crafting uses a computer-controlled gantry which travels along rails laid either side of the construction site, following an architect’s plans. A robot arm suspended from the gantry moves from side to side, dispensing concrete from a nozzle. Exterior and interior walls can be built in a continuous process, layer by layer, including conduits for piping, wiring and air conditioning.

“We are advancing the technology in multiple directions including space applications, building applications on earth, and infrastructure elements such as towers and bridges,” says Professor Khoshnevis. He plans to print his first building, a house with more than 90 square metres of living space, in 2017.

Their technique might one day offer a way to build facilities ranging from labs to living quarters for explorers to the moon or Mars, using rocks and other materials available far from earth. Read more about Contour Crafting and watch a prototype Contour Crafting machine in operation.