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Printing a Home: The Case For Contour Crafting 253

Posted by samzenpus
from the those-who-live-in-printed-houses dept.
ambermichelle wrote in with a link to a story about the possibility that the home of the future might be printed instead of built. "It can take anywhere from six weeks to six months to build a 2,800-square-foot, two-story house in the U.S., mostly because human beings do all the work. Within the next five years, chances are that 3D printing (also known by the less catchy but more inclusive term additive manufacturing) will have become so advanced that we will be able to upload design specifications to a massive robot, press print, and watch as it spits out a concrete house in less than a day. Plenty of humans will be there, but just to ogle. Minimizing the time and cost that goes into creating shelters will enable aid workers to address the needs of people in desperate situations. This, at least, is what Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of engineering and director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies, or CRAFT, at the University of Southern California, hopes will come of his inventions."
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Printing a Home: The Case For Contour Crafting

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  • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:07PM (#38743848) Homepage

    So this will finish the outside. That goes up pretty fast. The slow part of a custom home is the plumbing, the wiring, the trim and the painting and finishing. I don't see this as a big game changer.

    • by trout007 (975317) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:12PM (#38743894)

      I work in a machine shop and every time I do finish
      carpentry at home I think about what a pain it is
      coping all of those joints. It would be nice to have a little CNC surfacing router that can measure the joint and cut the cope.

      • by cayenne8 (626475) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:40PM (#38744534) Homepage Journal
        Geez...just what we need...MORE cookie cutter homes that all look the same...neighborhood after neighborhood, not character at all.

        Makes me glad I live in New Orleans, with all the great old architecture, where no two houses look the same, and best of all...no fucking Homeowners Association to put up with...

        If you like a purple house (and we have them here), feel free to customize.

        As much as slash dotters like to customize things, I'm sometimes surprised more people here aren't against stupid HA rules, and such keeping people from individualizing their homes they are supposed to own.

        • by hirundo (221676) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:55PM (#38744610)

          Geez...just what we need...MORE cookie cutter homes that all look the same...

          You've got that backwards. Printing homes mean far more customizations. Bespoke your heart out on Sketchup, send it to be validated by a building code / physics model, and off to the printer. A room shaped like Einstein's hollowed out head? A bas-relief tribute to your dog on the living room wall? No problem! Try getting that kind of flexibility from a conventional contractor for conventional prices.

          • by Polo (30659) *

            I agree. If this slashdot article compared it to Lego for homes, I think we'd see more ideas...

          • by westlake (615356)

            Bespoke your heart out on Sketchup, send it to be validated by a building code / physics model, and off to the printer. A room shaped like Einstein's hollowed out head? A bas-relief tribute to your dog on the living room wall? No problem!

            Until you try to finance the project.

            Until you put your wildly eccentric house up for sale.

            Then you will discover very quickly that no one else shares you enthusiasm for architectural follies.

        • by walshy007 (906710) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:06PM (#38744690)

          Houses within a 100km radius of here average between $450k and $800k

          With an average wage of about $40k, paying off a home and actually having enough money to.. you know, live. Can be difficult.

          Reduce that cost to even $250k, and young people will be able to buy homes again. I'd take a house that looks the same over no house.

          • by Shavano (2541114) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:36PM (#38744890)

            In places where the cost of an average home is over 150k, most of the cost is land. You can't print land.

            • by ArsonSmith (13997) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @01:47AM (#38745568) Journal

              I don't know, i heard they were stretching New Mexico.

            • Most of the housing stock and materials are the same between the $150k houses and the $450k houses. The difference already is the land-value.

              One other thought on making houses cheaper by eliminating human labor: will only construction jobs be in decline because of this, or will all wages drop a bit? I'm not a luddite, just a socialist. If technology concentrates wealth and income, we need some way to democratize it again.

              • by tehcyder (746570)

                One other thought on making houses cheaper by eliminating human labor: will only construction jobs be in decline because of this, or will all wages drop a bit? I'm not a luddite, just a socialist. If technology concentrates wealth and income, we need some way to democratize it again

                It's called taxation. Socialist countries tax progressively and highly in order to redistribute wealth. And yes, that means that if you're lucky enough to earn a lot of money, you pay a lot of tax.

    • by lezerno (775940) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:14PM (#38743916) Homepage
      When I used to work as a carpenter, two other carpenters and I could frame out a 3000 square foot house in about 3 days. As you say, the rest took about 3 months.
      • by Colin Smith (2679) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:57PM (#38744628)

        Have a look at "fertighaus" builds on youtube.

        8 hours:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vexbKmmPw8M [youtube.com]

        All designed, manufactured, tested in a factory. Built on site on a standard base with facilities in place. This particular one is a passivhause, which means the level of insulation is such that it doesn't need any heating, or cooling.

        • by Nimey (114278)

          Absofragginlutely. If I ever have a house built, I want it to be a prefab factory-built unit that only needs to be assembled on site.

          Sears (the catalog people) used to sell those in the old days. You'd spend between a few hundred to a couple thousand dollars (a long while back!), the house would get shipped via rail and then road to your site, and if you were reasonably handy there's your house.

          • by cusco (717999)
            Remodeled one of those houses once. The entire thing was designed to fit in a single rail car. The original builder had done a crappy job on the foundations but the house was still solid because the sections were bolted solidly together. As long as you keep a good roof on them it will last forever.
            • Remodeled one of those houses once. The entire thing was designed to fit in a single rail car. The original builder had done a crappy job on the foundations but the house was still solid because the sections were bolted solidly together. As long as you keep a good roof on them it will last forever.

              They have been "cost optimized" now, they're called "trailers" and usually closely associated with trash.

              You can also buy "Exposure D" prefab modules that withstand 135mph winds (better than most custom built homes), but they aren't much cheaper than a custom built home, unless you also build the custom home to Exposure D...

      • They've done these prototype concrete printers for many years (sorry, no link handy, but I saw a video at least 5 years ago...)

        If you don't mind really rough interior walls, they could be printed too, slap on some EMT and surface mount electrical receptacles, exposed plumbing and HVAC, and this can be "finished" in way less than 3 months. Insulation? Print two walls - concrete is cheap compared to labor.

        If you want "finished" carpentry, or custom carved stonework, or other things that take time, that will

      • by hey! (33014)

        My first reaction, exactly.

        Then I thought about it. Everyone's surprised when they learn that those things take so much time, then it becomes accepted wisdom. But it's not some kind of law of physics; it's a result of a particular building process in which you frame out the house and then run utilities through the frame. Just to be wildly speculative, you could imagine a world in which people built a framework of utility distribution conduits, then *framed the house around the utilities*. Then utilities w

    • No obvious way to put plumbing or conduit into the crete.

      Everything would be in the floor. Which I presume would be poured in more or less the standard way.

      How many tilt up houses do they sell? This is more flex able, but I'm not sure it would be all that much cheaper for square boxes.

    • by Baron_Yam (643147) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:09PM (#38744316)

      To be fair, the article says mods to install plumbing and wiring are possible. I don't see why not, either. Actually, as concrete can be made waterproof, you could just design the sewer pipes as part of the structure, only the inbound pressurized pipes would need to be something else.

      I can also see this being programmed to produce mounting points for exterior insulation - put the insulation panels on the outside then add your siding to cover it up. This would make the concrete part of the thermal mass of the house, helping keep the temperature steady.

      You'd also add similar interior points for hanging drywall, no stud walls necessary. That's IF you feel the need. Why not design the walls with channels for central air and wiring, and just paint directly on the concrete?

      It's a potential game changer if you can get an architect to embrace it and produce something useful, desirable, and for less than a traditional home.

      • by aXis100 (690904)

        Yeah the inside can just have a skim-coat of plaster, and then painted. In essence the same as internal brick or tilt-up concrete.

      • by jbengt (874751) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:47PM (#38744572)

        Actually, as concrete can be made waterproof, you could just design the sewer pipes as part of the structure, only the inbound pressurized pipes would need to be something else.

        Uh, no. Concrete cracks and is porous. It would never be a good idea to use your walls to carry waste waster, not to mention codes not allowing it. I know concrete sewers exist, but those aren't inside your walls when they leak. What if you want to remodel and need to make changes to the plumbing layout? And how are you going to do repairs? In high rises it is not uncommon to have some piping (actual plastic or metal pipes) cast into the concrete floors, but it is a huge pain when those embedded pipes fail, as all things do, eventually.

        • by Fjandr (66656)

          I've seen what happens when embedded piping fails in residential concrete floors. Sometimes, engineers just screw up in their estimations, and when they do the failures are ugly.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:30PM (#38744456)

      Er, reinforcing. Won't the concrete structure need steel reinforcing? That will take a lot of labour to erect and the process would have to work around it. Maybe build in a MIG head and lay the reinforcing as you go. Oh and lay steel rod for where there is nothing to add weld to. And .... What I'm saying is good idea but I think it needs a bit more work. Maybe it will be OK for some sort of monolithic concrete construction. Currently flat prefab panels with built-in wiring etc seem to be at least more viable but underused in domestic construction. Well at least in Australia. No doubt countries with their heads in the 21st century will use rapid build techniques like that.

    • by jbengt (874751)
      Not to mention the excavation, foundation, utiliies, landscaping, etc.
    • by quarkscat (697644) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:01PM (#38744650)

      Printed houses? Really?

      I've seen poured concrete houses, in Roanoke VA USA, and I don't think they age well. They are inherently cold as an icebox, expensive to make any utility repairs in, even more expensive to expand or modify, and when they do eventually crack due to settling are nearly impossible to maintain wall alignment. "Printed houses" can either be equally problematic to poured concrete houses, or else "disposable".

      The longest standing buildings have used post-and-beam construction, with either stone or concrete block walls, or quicklime & straw block walls. Some such constructions are listed in Britain's Domesday Book, nearly 800 years old. The modern equivalent building is made of reinforced concrete and steel beams -- very durable in spite of extreme examples to the contrary seen by the destruction of the NYC WTC Towers & Building 7 -- certainly historical anomalies.

      Ideally, houses would be efficiently constructed from local building materials, like the sod dugouts built in the USA Northern Plains. I would rather live in a yurt than a "printed house" -- at least they have been proven to "travel" well. In many "purportedly civilized" regions, building codes that enforce monopoly construction methods outweigh common sense. Bankers' rules. Better a small home wholly owned than a modern palace "rented" from a bank for nearly forever.

      • by cusco (717999)
        There are many adobe homes scattered around the world that are about that age. Used to work in a building in Cuzco, Peru, that has withstood 500 years of earthquakes, many of them well over 7 on the Richter scale. Replace the roof every 60 years, put new railings and stair treads ever 30 years, new doors and windows every century or so.
    • by Polo (30659) *

      I think you could solve that pretty easily. At a certain height, have someone manually go around and lay down electrical conduit.

      Go a little higher, and lay out the plumbing.

      It might also work out to lay down pex tubing before the floor goes down for hydrionic radiant heat.

      In any case, the article said the use would be other countries, so the first world is probably not the target market... Unless they come up with clever curved designs that prove popular.

      For instance, how about a hobbit home with a round

  • impractical (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Formalin (1945560) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:11PM (#38743880)

    So in addition to shipping in concrete, insulation and wiring, etc, you have to bring in the gigantic robot that runs on rails(it looks like)? and power it?

    There's a reason a lot of things are still done by hand, and a lot of the time, the reason is money.
    You can make a concrete house in BFE with only concrete, rebar, water, and humans, with some plywood for forms. Doesn't even need electricity, but that would speed it up. Seems to me that would be considerably easier to mobilize during a disaster, than a huge robot... no?

    Something like this would be more suited to printing trailers in a factory (but not concrete..), or possibly a whole new subdivision, I'd think. But I'm sure the guys hanging out in front of home depot will do it cheaper.

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

      While we will never run out of Mexicans to do all the labor (or Arabs if you are European), we may need to explore alternatives to the massive amounts of wood we use for tinderbox McMansions.

      • by hedwards (940851)

        Why? What precisely is wrong with building hoses out of wood? It's relatively cheap, easy to put up, it doesn't bend or twist if there's a fire and if something happens where the firefighters need to cut somebody out of it because they've become stuck, it's easy to do.

        Steel has advantages as does concrete and stone, but none of them are really appropriate for even sizable homes.

        • Re:impractical (Score:4, Interesting)

          by aXis100 (690904) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:41PM (#38744538)

          You've never lived in country where steel, brick or concrete houses were the norm have you?

          Personally I can get over how flimsy the American system of timber frames, pitch and felt waterproofing, and shingles/sidings seems. By comparison, external brick or tilt-up concrete will last for hundreds or years with no maintenance, corrugated zincalume steel or clay tiled rooves last 20 years without any maintenance. Steel frames are termite proof. None of them are expensive.

          If you need a way out a a fire I suggest there's better alterntives than cutting holes out of your wall. Maybe like windows?

          • Re:impractical (Score:4, Informative)

            by aXis100 (690904) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:44PM (#38744556)

            PS - wood has no merits in a fire. It might not bend and twist, instead it just adds to the fuel load and collapses.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Funny, we've got 20 years on a shingle roof that dad and I installed, and it appears that it will last well beyond the 30 year warranty. I suspect that the reason your "old houses" aren't made of wood is that it's been expensive since the industrial revolution in Europe, where here it grows on trees. Steel framed construction is still much more expensive than wood framed houses here, and even for non-bearing walls, it's only coming close to cheap due to the Chinese manipulation of the steel markets. (Good j

          • OTOH I guess you haven't lived in an earthquake zone. Brick and concrete houses tend to fall down without rediculous amounts of reinforcement. Wood flexes and springs back.

            Having owned and lived in both 100 year old brick and 100 year old wooden houses, I would say the maintenance level required is fairly similar.

            • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

              Unless of course you take into account that wood buildings tend to catch fire after the earthquake.

      • by Hadlock (143607)

        There are more trees on earth since the advent of modern forestry than before it. I am all for "save the forests" in Brazil and whatnot, but the wood used in home construction is grown as a crop (a 13-30 year crop, but a crop nonetheless). Home building materials are about as green as green can get. Even brick is made with 2-3% ash from coal power plants.

        • That's not really a thing worth worrying about. It's not like we're building coal power plants to make bricks. The production method adapts to the environment - if solar took off tomorrow, then you'd see concentrated solar brick making factories soon after that.

          Same with concrete really.

        • Re:impractical (Score:4, Informative)

          by Fjandr (66656) on Thursday January 19, 2012 @05:44AM (#38746286) Homepage Journal

          There are more trees on earth since the advent of modern forestry than before it.

          This is patently untrue. Even the most conservative counts put current forest populations at about half what they were in the 1800s. Globally, there is a loss of roughly 32,000,000 acres of forest per year. The modest modern increases in forest size in North America and Europe are vastly outweighed by deforestation in South America and Africa. Between 1990 and 2005 alone the Earth lost roughly 309,500,000 acres of forest. Adding the next 6 years at the estimated rate brings us to around half a billion acres lost in just the last two decades of modern forestry.

          I'd like to see even a single authoritative source claiming the Earth has anywhere near the forest area that existed 200 years ago.

          These numbers have been called into question since they don't count areas of selective logging. If there were still trees standing, it was counted as forest:
          http://www.fao.org/forestry/32033/en/ [fao.org]

          There are hundreds of other studies taking into account other time periods, all of which show declines. The only argument is about the extent of the decline, not whether or not one exists.

      • Re:impractical (Score:4, Informative)

        by Redbaran (918344) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:23PM (#38744404)

        we may need to explore alternatives to the massive amounts of wood we use for tinderbox McMansions.

        I think you're underestimating how fast Southern Yellow Pine that is used for framing grows. I live around many acres of tree farms and it's impressive how fast they grow. Also, this is what wikipedia has to say (emphasis mine):

        Green building minimizes the impact or "environmental footprint" of a building. Wood is a major building material that is renewable and uses the sun’s energy to renew itself in a continuous sustainable cycle.[20] Studies show manufacturing wood uses less energy and results in less air and water pollution than steel and concrete.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimensional_lumber#Environmental_benefits_of_lumber [wikipedia.org]

    • So in addition to shipping in concrete, insulation and wiring, etc, you have to bring in the gigantic robot that runs on rails(it looks like)? and power it?

      I agree it might not be the most cost effective, at least initially, on Earth but what about environments where humans cannot easily go to build shelters e.g. ocean floor, surface of the moon etc. Having a robot construct the initial external structure which can then support a more human friendly environment might be far more efficient that having humans do it.

      • No reason you couldn't modularize the fabrication. Or the robot. Or build the house in a factory, then truck it out, finished, to it's final location.

        • Yes there is a reason - the cost to ship a prebuilt house from the Earth to the moon and then assemble it. It would be far cheaper if you could ship a robot which can use materials already on the lunar surface to make a "concrete" house, run off solar energy and not die from long term exposure to radiation.
    • by Altus (1034)

      If you really want an emergency shelter, you want one of these [survivaljoe.net]

      Up in 4 ready to move in in 24. Just add water.

  • The Canary Wharf project, as much as I detest the lousy architecture (it's a ruddy eyesore), was constructed extraordinarily fast. Twenty years ago. I don't see this being 20 years worth of improvement.

  • by ickleberry (864871) <web@pineapple.vg> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:13PM (#38743900) Homepage
    When you can just come over to Ireland and there are plenty of unused homes to choose from and just as few jobs as there are in the US?

    A proper built home will last 100+ years, feck it the one I'm in now lasted about 400 years before it needed to be rebuilt, 6 weeks or humans doing the work is not a big deal, its just that shoddy construction is a big problem or at least was until the recession hit. Now people want things to last and are more careful with resources.

    Not that I have anything against 3D printing but I don't think a house is the ideal application for it. I'd much rather print the stuff that currently comes out of China or out of large automated factories. Hopefully one day everyone will be able to print open source objects like engine parts, electronic components and the like. A massive house-printing robot will most likely be owned by some megacorp who will charge you the same and ensure the construction is just as shoddy as a Mexican-built house except they'll make more money from it.
    • by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:35PM (#38744098)

      That's old world thinking. I doubt there's been a house built in the last 20 years that is going to last even 50 years. (Aside from the guys that like the monolithic domes). As fast and as cheap as possible. You're just going to live in it for 10 years and flip it when it starts having major problems, that's the American way.

      Hell you guys have pubs that are older than some of our city halls and in much better condition.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        To be fair, maintenance of pubs is the #1 priority over there. Comes before feeding the kids and way way way before maintaining city hall.

      • by cusco (717999) <brian...bixby@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:10PM (#38744714)
        I worked in remodeling with my dad and brother for a long time, and when customers would say to him, "They don't build them like they used to" his retort was, "Thank god!" Until you've ripped open the walls of a couple of 100 year-old houses you really have no idea how poorly constructed they were, slapped together by barely-sober laborers working for $1/day, whose only tools were a hammer and a saw. In comparison a modern stick-built house constructed according to building codes and properly inspected is a marvel of engineering and science. Agreed, there are plenty of schlocky companies doing shit work and paying off inspectors, but you certainly can't say that's all the construction going on, or even the majority.
        • I had one of those 1936 homes, constructed by the barely sober laborers for $1/day. When you've got that cheap labor, you can construct wood lathe to go under the browncoat and two layers of plaster, you can afford an oak plank floor with mahogany inlays, and you can make Art-Deco architectural sculpted walls with built in shelving, and you can sell the thing for less than $3,000.

          Building codes are good in theory, but the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew proved that the law isn't always followed, in-fact at n

      • by russotto (537200)

        That's old world thinking. I doubt there's been a house built in the last 20 years that is going to last even 50 years. (Aside from the guys that like the monolithic domes). As fast and as cheap as possible. You're just going to live in it for 10 years and flip it when it starts having major problems, that's the American way.

        Common claim, but nostalgiac nonsense. I live in a house built in 1960, built basically the same as one would be built today. Except one built today would have better sealing and insu

        • I'm not talking about 1960. Think 1860.

          I grew up in a house built then, they DID build them different. The house I have was timber frame home. Meaning the entire house is supported by 2'x2' beams running through it. The walls were plaster. They had little 1' wide and very thin boards that covered every wall, then they slathered on what was more or less a thin concrete. I've looked at dry wall funny and gotten holes in it. You could hit the wall as hard as you wanted in my house and it wasn't going anywhere.

    • by Rakishi (759894) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @11:33PM (#38744856)

      A proper built home will last 100+ years, feck it the one I'm in now lasted about 400 years before it needed to be rebuilt, 6 weeks or humans doing the work is not a big deal, its just that shoddy construction is a big problem or at least was until the recession hit. Now people want things to last and are more careful with resources.

      And all the other shoddy houses built in the last 400 years have long since burned down, collapsed or been torn down.

      That's like saying that since all the people born in the 1800s are now over 100, all the people back then used to live to 100.

  • Never happen here (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vinegar Joe (998110) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:16PM (#38743932)

    The construction companies are tied into the building licensing/standards agencies. See how easy it is to get a building permit and bank loan for a dome.

    • See how easy it is to get a building permit and bank loan for a dome.

      These guys [monolithic.com] seem to get by, plus they built a cool space-ship type dome.

    • by Polo (30659) *

      A friend of mine actually built a dome (in texas), but it was next to impossible to get a permit.

      So... He built the dome in an unincorporated area just outside town. After it was all built, the town immediately annexed him, which was amusing.

    • The construction companies are tied into the building licensing/standards agencies. See how easy it is to get a building permit and bank loan for a dome.

      These people can help, a little, but lots of places just don't like the way domes look, so you'll be fighting that battle even though they will say it's about engineering analysis, etc.

      http://www.aidomes.com/ [aidomes.com]

  • And by 1973 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by idbeholda (2405958) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:18PM (#38743940) Journal
    ... We'll be building these houses on the moon.
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:19PM (#38743946)

    Good news is that the consumable components will be available at office stores nationwide, bad news is that a full set of consumables will cost exactly the same as the printer.

  • by wisebabo (638845) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:20PM (#38743956) Journal

    If these machines could simultaneously form the conduits and pipes needed for plumbing (is the concrete waterproof? Can it be laid down in a seamless fashion?) then that could really be useful. Of course, the fastenings (the metal hardware) would have to be affixed afterwards.

    I guess there would be no practical way of making electrical (or fiber optic!) cables using this "additive" construction but at least you could provide for the necessary openings and channels.

    • by Nethemas the Great (909900) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:10PM (#38744320)

      That's the rub with these 3D printers. People see some form or other of extrusion printing of various objects then jump to irrational ideas. The most common being that it will either scale easily, and/or that adding the ability to print wiring, plumbing, circuits, etc. along side and within the structure is trivial (complete buildings, machines, self-replicating robots and such). Nothing can be further from the truth. Material properties seldom scale, and going from layering plastic/metal/etc. to fashion an object to fashioning a fully functional machine, house, etc. is a bit like discovering flammable liquids for the first time then going on to implement the internal combustion engine. Inventing present day 3D printers was the easy part not the hard part.

      • A lot of the hype comes from the researchers/builders of the printers themselves, partly because they want to sell stuff, partly because they want 3d printing to be "sexy", and thus want to target the more "sexier" areas, building houses, spaceships etc. But as you say, those things are really hard to print, and the sacrifices that must be made often outweigh the benefits.

        However, 3d printing WILL revolutionize some industries, but for those industries aren't very "sexy". One of those things is retail,
        • by El Torico (732160)
          You're not just "revolutionizing the spatula industry", you're revolutionizing manufacturing.
    • You could lay in fiber or electrical cable as the layers are being printed, but servicing it later would be... problematic.

      Something larger like a flexible conduit might work, but as the conduit becomes a significant fraction of the size of the "bead", it will get tougher, and the junction boxes would likely require some "hands on" work to set, or a much more complex robot.

  • Prefab home... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xzvf (924443) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:24PM (#38743980)
    I'm an advocate of 3D printing, but wouldn't it me more effective to build container sized housing components in a factory and ship them to the building site? It seems like a lot of work to ship in the concrete and its printer. A typical 2000 sqft house in the US could be put together from six standard 40' containers, all wired, plumed and finished at the factory.
    • Re:Prefab home... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DanielRavenNest (107550) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @10:07PM (#38744298)

      Check out Broad Air, a Chinese construction company. They can put up a 30 story office building exactly that way: http://www.broad.com:8089/english/product/bsb/bsb.asp [broad.com]

      The modules are what fits on a tractor-trailer, and most of the work is done in the factory. The modules bolt together, and the supplies for the finish work are delivered shrink wrapped to the module, so it's all right there without having to haul it up a construction elevator.

    • by Carnildo (712617)

      Headroom is a bit of a problem with shipping-container architecture. At the very least, you'd need to use 9-foot-6 high-cube containers rather than 8-foot-6 standard containers. The standard eight-foot width is also awkward: it's too wide for a hallway, while a standard room is ten feet wide. If you offset the walls so that a room takes up all of one container and part of another, you'd need to stiffen the roof or lose the ability to stack containers.

      • by Polo (30659) *

        Couldn't you put the wall sections on their sides? Like 4 sections 8' wide and 9 or 10' tall?

    • I'm an advocate of 3D printing, but wouldn't it me more effective to build container sized housing components in a factory and ship them to the building site?

      You're talking about modular homes, which is a well-established industry. I just got done managing a $3M modular building project. Modular saved 20% on cost.

      Ceiling height is the main drawback with them - 9' is as high as you go without major contrivances. But they can be any size and nearly any shape, which is good. The walls tend to be straight,

  • Not quite yet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theIsovist (1348209) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:25PM (#38743990)
    This is assuming that a house's wall is a singular item, which is a silly thing to think. Walls contain space for insulation, space for water to drain, wiring, plumbing and HVAC space. Yes, we could build a shelter with this machine, but 3d printing a house would be like 3d printing a maker bot. It may look similar, but until you have the insides built, it won't function. There's also a big issue with reinforcing the concrete. The walls will be primarily in compression which is fine, but if you tried to create multiple levels, the floors in tension would quickly crack under their own weight.

    I'm not saying that we'll never 3d print a house, but their proposal shows a lack of understanding of the basic premise.
  • Edison tried it. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:27PM (#38744016) Homepage

    Concrete houses was Edison's great dream a hundred years ago; cheap and mass producable.

    They never caught on then. Why would we think they'd catch on now?

    -some of the Edison houses are still around.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=edison+concrete+houses [google.com]

    • by Polo (30659) *

      Yes, in the USA, with it's plentiful wood supply, there are not very many concrete houses.

      But in other countries, concrete construction is the norm. Just about every house in mexico city is a concrete block structure. (Yes, I know, not poured concrete)

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Wood is cheap and houses are disposable.

      Concrete block and ICF (Insulating Concrete Form) construction cost more than pine. Game over.

      I personally would prefer a poured concrete or block home, but a used wooden home was much less expensive.

  • Send the robot to Mars with the materials needed and small group of astronauts and "print" up a Mars base for future missions to reside in.

    The uses for this on Earth are few and far between as I see it but in space where work environments for humans is hostile to say the least, the process could be monumental.

  • by decora (1710862) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:33PM (#38744068) Journal

    we had a massive over-inflated real-estate bubble for 8 years, and instead of everyone getting cheap houses, we got the Great Recession, massive numbers of vacant, rotting empty lots, and millions of unemployed people declaring bankruptcy.

    alot of the 'price' of land has nothing to do with reality. its fake. its manipulated by investment banks like Goldman Sachs with fake money and fake loans and fake derivatives.

    lets say you could churn out houses for 5 cents. a 1/2 acre lot near a metropolis will still cost $500,000 + taxes + sewer + water + etc etc etc.

    • If you could churn out houses for 5c, they would have to knock other houses down to destroy the supply.

      Here's the problem. The price of anything is a function of supply and demand. If there is too much supply the price falls. If there is too much demand the price rises, and vice versa.

      If all the demand for housing is ever met by the supply, the price of a house would fall to effectively nothing. This causes a problem with capitalism because the money to buy the houses, is borrowed into existence. Your neigh

  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Wednesday January 18, 2012 @09:41PM (#38744126)
    I remember seeing this concept in Popular Mechanics decades ago. The only difference is a CPU driving the cement layer vs one human doing it.
    br.And as others have said...this is just the walls. It is all the rest that takes the time.
    • It's also faster and cheaper to setup forms and pour concrete walls than to setup a robot and build it up layer by layer. The only thing this robot has on the former is the ability to more easily produce curves.
      • by Polo (30659) *

        Actually, it's that it can build curves, and is customizable from the start.

  • A couple of years ago we had a story like this. I can't seem to find it so if anyone else can... (maybe it wasn't even slashdot) Anyway, that story had linked to it a video of an actual full scale "house printer". It was a time lapsed video of an experimental home printer building a two story house complete with wiring (but I don't think plumbing at the time) in about a week. The end result was a rather fantastic two-story house made largely of concrete. It was rather impressive. The downside was the te
    • by wjcofkc (964165)
      I should also point out that Edison first had the idea of mass produced concrete homes. For a lot of reasons it didn't work out. Since Wikipedia is still blacked out:
      http://flyingmoose.org/truthfic/edison.htm
      • by norpy (1277318)

        The wiki blockout is defeated by noscript (since wikimedia.org normally doesn't serve up javascript it isn't whitelisted for me)

        Or just hit escape before it redirects you.

      • by cusco (717999)
        Edison claimed to have had a lot of ideas first, until you actually do a little research into them and find that he just stole it, or (if he was feeling generous) hired the actual inventor and then took the credit. Thomas Edison was the Steve Jobs of his day, a master marketer backed by a vicious legal team.
      • Edison was working on re-usable steel formwork, which didn't offer much flexibility in design, and required quite a lot of labor to assemble, pour and strip. The contour crafting system could potentially be run by a single operator.

        -jcr

  • Maybe this will work in a open area building stuff in a line but trying to fit that in to a area with other stuff in the way? Maybe to build / puttogether parts of the crane on site.

    What hills and and places with uneven ground?

  • An all concrete house? Lol, they've tried that every decade since the 1800's and it's never caught on. Why? Because nobody wants to live in an above ground basement. The fact of the matter is that houses can be built very quickly with the meathods we already use. Back in 1981 the house my parents live in was built in 3 days as a tech demonstration. It's a large ranch style home filled with all sorts of custom trim work, wood beams, etc...
  • I hope he gets the funding he needs to get it on the market soon. Construction is one of the most dangerous jobs there is, and the more of it we can automate, the better. Plus, I love the incredible flexibility that this technology makes possible.

    -jcr

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