If anyone has read William Gibson’s Idoru they may remember the robots that constructed nanotech skyscrapers?
Behrokh Khoshnevis , a professor of engineering at the University of Southern California and The Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies is making Gibson’s vision a reality with a process of CAD/CAM technology, which ‘prints’ out a computer model as 3-D object using layers of plastic. Kohsnevis’ Contour Crafting automated system uses a giant computer-guided nozzle to lay down layers of concrete, while the machine’s robotic trowels give the walls shape. You may have seen the experimental concept at Design and the Elastic Mind.
Now Caterpillar, the world’s biggest maker of construction equipment, has announced it will fund research of Koshnevis’ robotic building machines through a grant to the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.
The overarching vision for the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) is to develop the science and engineering needed for rapid automated fabrication of objects of various size up to mega-scale structures such as, boats, industrial objects, public art and whole building structures.
The grand challenge for CRAFT is building a custom-designed house in a day while drastically reducing the costs, injuries, waste and environmental impact associated with traditional construction techniques. The vision is a revolution in housing construction, whether it be to provide affordable housing for the 30 million U.S. households facing cost burdens or overcrowding; emergency housing for victims of disasters; extraterrestrial buildings constructed from in situ materials; new styles of housing based on curved organic designs rather than straight surfaces; or inexpensive first ownership housing for an emerging middle class in the developing world. With national construction-related expenditures currently totaling close to $1 trillion annually, the potential impact is enormous.