Most stories about 3D printers highlight what customers, designers and small businesses could do with their own 3D printer. When comes the time to produce robust pieces, you will need an industrial 3D printer. The process is known as additive manufacturing in the manufacturing industries. 3D printers have been used for a while now when it comes to producing prototypes and medical implants. I read in Technology review that GE aims to print the nozzles of jet engines that are due to go into planes in late 2015 or early 2016. This means that they are confident about the quality of the printed pieces.
It does stop there! 3D printing could change the home building industry forever. In this TED Talk video, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at the University of Southern California demonstrates that automated construction could become a reality sooner than later, if we are willing to give it a chance.
With his concept, the entire structure of a 2,500 square house could be printed in 20 hours. This is impressive!
All the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning can be embedded in the house by the printer. This is a huge improvement over the current construction methods. If you ever bought a home from a builder, you know that every little change to where things were planned costs a fortune. The reason is that you also pay for the extra project management required by your changes to the builder’s plans. There are many people who are involved, which could lead in miscommunications and the need to modify their workflow. Because of that, many builders refuse changes. 3D printing could give customers more design freedom. With 3D printing, once the changes are coded in the plan, the printer will take care of the rest. It is that simple!
There are no doubts that automated construction is a tough sale for consumers and workers. We still build houses using the construction techniques that were invented centuries ago. The materials are more advanced than they used to but the techniques are basically the same. My biggest complaint about the current building methods are how ineffective they are. People don’t realize how much waste is produced by our current construction methods. I am talking about waste in time, money, materials and plenty of things that fill up the garbage bins. We should aim for building methods that reflect what technology enables us to do today.
I don’t know if what Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis did with his Contour Crafting printer is the answer. I simply applaud that he is trying to find a solution. My question, then, becomes: When and who will disrupt the home building industry? I think that 3D printing is in the race.
+ photo credits: Contour Crafting