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3-D Printing the Future

Behrokh Khoshnevis' large-scale 3-D printing technology wins the Grand Prize among 1000+ competitors
By: Hai Vu
October 08, 2014 —

Feature ISE Khoshnevis Contour Crafting

Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor in USC Viterbi’s Daniel J. Epstein Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering, is the grand prize winner of the 2014 Create the Future Design Contest for his computerized construction method. His innovation, Contour Crafting, holds the promise to 3-D print large-scale structures such as houses, bridges, and emergency shelters.

The contest was launched over a decade ago by the publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine and its principal sponsors are COMSOL, Mouser, and Tech Briefs Media Group. Created to help stimulate and reward engineering innovation, the annual event has attracted more than 8,000 product design ideas from engineers, entrepreneurs, and students worldwide in categories including electronics, aerospace and defense, medical, and consumer products. Khoshnevis’ Contour Crafting technology was submitted in the category of machinery, automation and robotics and won out over more than a thousand other entries across all categories. As the contest’s grand prize winner, he will receive $20,000 provided by sponsors COMSOL and Mouser Electronics.

Using a series of computer-aided designs, 3-D printers can fabricate any number of items, from simple chess pieces to savory pizzas. Now, thanks to Khoshnevis and his automated construction technology, we may soon be able to 3-D print entire buildings.

Incorporated by Khoshnevis in 2014, Contour Crafting is expected to completely revolutionize the construction industry once it hits the market. Using a four-person task force and simple building materials, the Contour Crafting device has the potential to construct a house in less than 24 hours. In addition to dramatically decreasing the cost of construction and the safety risks that come with traditional construction methods, Contour Crafting could help eliminate poor housing conditions in third world countries by providing home construction at a fraction of the price as well as health and environmental risks. It could provide a cheap, eco-friendly, and efficient solution to cramped urban areas and developing countries that are in need of building more living space for rising numbers of inhabitants.

Contour Crafting could also serve an important use in the wake of large-scale disasters.

Currently, it takes weeks or even months to build a shelter or a hospital after an event like a tsunami or earthquake. However, due to its ability to mass-produce large structures, Contour Crafting could reduce the manpower required to rebuild in the aftermath of natural disasters, thereby allowing the workforce to focus on saving victims or providing other emergency or support services.

Khoshnevis is currently working with NASA on bringing his automated construction technology into space, paving the way for further space exploration. This construction technology would allow scientists to build laboratories and housing structures on the moon or on other planets to sustain long-term research projects.

Khoshnevis is currently working on a commercial model of the Contour Crafting device and expects it to be marketable and accessible to consumers, architects, and developers within two years.