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Design Contest Celebrates Revolutionary Material Fabrication

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Advances in material fabrication have reached breakneck speeds with developments coming out of the 3D printing space. And some of their brilliance was recently acknowledged with a win in the Create the Future Design Contest.

Contour Crafting, a fabrication technology developed by Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California that radically reduces the time and cost of conventional construction, has scored top honours in this year’s edition of the international contest.

Khoshnevis’s technology facilitates the automated construction of entire structures, along with their component parts, by way of a rapid-prototype or 3D printing process. So massive are the capabilities of this patented computer-controlled robotic technology that the large-scale components of a structure—including an extruded paste-like material similar to concrete and interlocking steel bars—can be fabricated quickly in a layer-by-layer fashion.

Many different forms can be created, including complex curved designs. The pieces are so detailed that they include all the conduits for electrical, plumbing, and air-conditioning.

Khoshnevis says that it can make a 2500-square-foot custom home in 20 hours (including plumbing, wiring, and tiling) for 60 percent less than a conventional method. He hopes to see entry-level construction models on the market within two years.

Developers are eyeing this custom fabrication technology’s potential applications for low-income neighbourhoods or areas that have suffered natural disasters.

Coolest of all is the possibility of this groundbreaking tool eventually delivering building options for habitation on the moon and Mars.

Large-scale 3D printing technology developments percolate elsewhere, including with Foster + Partners, a British architectural firm working with a European Space Agency consortium to print a house for the moon using lunar soil (known as regolith) as the construction material.

And New York architect Adam Kushner is developing what is likely the world’s first 3D-printed estate, complete with a 2400-square-foot main house, pool, and pool house. In the future, Kushner has predicted, 3D printing will also be done with recycled plastic. The results will change the very paradigm of how we make things.

Launched in 2002 by the publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine to help stimulate engineering innovation, the Create the Future Design Contest is an annual event that seeks exceptional, innovative product design ideas from entrepreneurs, engineers, and students worldwide.

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