Most readers will be aware of so-called “3D printing” techniques, in which solid objects can be constructed automatically from computer models. Researchers in California intend to scale the process up radically, using “contour crafting” concrete extrusion to erect buildings in a matter of hours.
“Instead of plastic, Contour Crafting will use concrete,” says Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California. Khoshnevis and his colleagues have just announced funding for their efforts from Caterpillar, the construction-equipment globocorp.
Contour Crafting equipment, apparently, can already create a six-foot concrete wall without any human input. It does this by putting down smooth, neatly-trimmed layers of concrete one on top of another “in a process analogous to inkjet printing”. Rather than ink, however, the heads on this equipment dispense “concrete, clay or adobe”, which is smoothed as it goes along using an array of trowel attachments. The gear was designed at the USC Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT), … And there’s no need for boring old boxy shapes, either. The equipment can happily create domes, vaults or any other shape that can be drawn in CAD software and support its own weight – at no added expense. Normally, anything other than right angles and verticals costs like crazy, so this latter feature is thought to have architects salivating. – theregister