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3D printer constructs 10 buildings in one day from recycled materials

Lucas Mearian | July 3, 2014
The 3D printers could someday be used to build skyscrapers from the recycled materials of other buildings.

The machines can also automatically embed all the conduits for electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning, as well as place electronic sensors to monitor the building's temperature and health over time.

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, is leading the effort to perfect the Contour Crafting construction technology.

A Contour Crafting-machine, which is made up of a metal gantry frame, along with the robotic extruding system, weighs about 500 pounds. It comes in two pieces and can be quickly erected on a construction site.

Each layer of concrete extruded by the machine is four inches thick and about six inches in height. Using special hardeners in the concrete, the material is hard enough to support the next layer by the time the machine circumnavigates the outside perimeter of a structure.

Khoshnevis believes 3D printing will not only enable affordable housing in third-world countries, but could also be used to construct off-world buildings by using materials native to those planets.

Unlike Yingchuang's 3D printers, which build structures one wall at a time, Contour Crafting's machines construct an entire building in one continuous movement.

More recently, Dutch design studio DUS Architects used a portable 3D printer they created called a KamerMaker (RoomMaker) to build a canal house in Amsterdam.

The canal house was built of thermoplastics in pieces that measured about 6ft. x 6ft. by 12 ft. in size and then assembled on site like Lego pieces.

Unlike both Dus Architects' and Contour Crafting's 3D printing technology, Yingchuang's technology extrudes recycled construction materials, such as sand, concrete and glass fiber.

Based in Suzhou, China, Yingchuang has been developing the 3D printing construction technology over the past 12 years, according to a report from Chinese television company CNC World.

Yihe believes 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing technology, could be used to build skyscrapers, after pulverizing materials from previously demolished buildings.

Yihe plans to build 100 recycling factories in China in order to collect building debris and recycling them into inexpensive building material for the 3D printers, according to the 3D printing design website, 3ders.

Additionally, Yihe told 3ders that Tomson, a well-known housing group, has approached him to build a villa.


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