Contour Crafting: Will Robots Soon Join your Crew?


Will we see the widespread use of construction robots in a year or two? Both USG and Caterpillar are teaming up with Contour Crafting to invest in the exploration of this new technology.

Contour Crafting, a layered fabrication technology developed by engineering professor, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis of the University of Southern California, has recently been recognized as an innovative construction method by industry experts.

Professor Khoshnevis won the grand prize in the 2014 “Create the Future Design Contest,” an annual contest started by publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine, NASA’s official magazine of new technology, that aims to stimulate and reward innovation in engineering.

Contour Crafting is considered a robotic construction system. It’s compared to 3D printing technology because it quickly fabricates parts in a layer-by-layer process. However, it differs because the parts are large-scale and can be used in civil structures, such as houses, emergency housing, low-income housing, and adobe structures. It has also been touted for the construction of bridges and towers.

The technique automates the use of age-old hand tools combined with conventional robotics and the innovative building of three-dimensional objects. A nozzle is used to spray concrete along a contour path to shape the walls of a structure. The robotic arms and nozzles make multiple passes to reinforce the materials and assemble the buildings in layers along a grid.

The result is extremely fast fabrication times. In addition to speed of fabrication, other benefits of Contour Crafting include its superior surface finish and the ability to use the technology with various construction materials and ceramics. As a result, the technology is also being considered for construction of structures on the moon and Mars and for the creation of large ceramic sculptures.

Contour Crafting is also cost-saving because it uses fewer man hours during manufacturing, increases the speed for when houses can be put on the market, and allows for lower financing costs because the builder can make a profit more quickly. Furthermore, insurance costs will be reduced because the process is considered safer for construction workers than traditional techniques.

There’s bound to be resistance to the rise of robotics in the construction industry. However, among the arguments for the creation of this technology, are the lack of skilled workers, accident rates on construction sites, large amount of waste.

What are your thoughts on Contour Crafting? Post a comment below!

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