Robot builder could 'print' houses

Discussion in 'Current Events' started by Frohickey, Mar 10, 2004.

  1. macrumors 6502a

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    #1
    Robot builder could 'print' houses

    A robot for "printing" houses is to be trialled by the construction industry. It takes instructions directly from an architect's computerised drawings and then squirts successive layers of concrete on top of one other to build up vertical walls and domed roofs.

    The precision automaton could revolutionise building sites. It can work round the clock, in darkness and without tea breaks. It needs only power and a constant feed of semi-liquid construction material.

    The key to the technology is a computer-guided nozzle that deposits a line of wet concrete, like toothpaste being squeezed onto a table. Two trowels attached to the nozzle then move to shape the deposit. The robot repeats its journey many times to raise the height and builds hollow walls before returning to fill them.

    Engineer Behrokh Khoshnevis, at the University of Southern California, has been perfecting his "contour crafter" for more than a year. "The goal is to be able to completely construct a one-story, 2000-square foot home on site, in one day and without using human hands," he says.

    Now Degussa AG, of Dýsseldorf, Germany, the world's largest manufacturer and supplier of building materials, is to collaborate on the project to help Khoshnevis find the best kind of building material.

    Mud and straw

    Khoshnevis has tested his prototype with cement but believes adobe, a mix of mud and straw that is dried by the Sun, could be suitable. But Degussa will be looking at other materials.

    Gerhard Albrecht, head of research at Degussa's speciality materials subsidiary, Admixture, says the company is ready to develop materials specifically for the contour crafting technology.

    Khoshnevis's prototype robot hangs from a movable overhead gantry, like the cranes at ship container depots. Khoshnevis speculates that they could also be ground-based, running along rails and able to build several houses at one time. But it would be more difficult to create autonomous wheeled robots that have sufficient accuracy and precision.

    The first house will be built in 2005. If the technology is successful the robot could enable new designs that cannot be built using conventional methods, for example involving complex curving walls.

    Greg Lynn, a leading architect from Venice, California, said. "I believe that aesthetically there's a great potential to make things that have never been seen before."

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    Awesome!

    I hear that they are already in the planning stages for an upgrade for the "contour crafter". Its going to be a module to do diplomatic missions to North Korea to negotiate the halt of nuclear bomb programs. The first "contour crafter" is going to be nicknamed, "Jimmah Cahter, PeenaFarma". :D
     
  2. macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

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    #2
    They are applying "inkjet" type technology to a variety of applications lately. Phillips Laboratories hope to perfect a flat-screen capable of decent images that can be printed, with only a metal frame attached to activate it. Some companies are moving towards printed circuitry, as in the entire thing. And who can forget the printer that can work with biological cells, which could be capable of producing new organs or appendages...

    Needless to say, if i had any money, i'd be investing in this type of technology right now.

    :cool:
    paul
     
  3. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #3
    Interesting stuff. Wonder how that works with all the other trades? I know that I don't have to put every last little detail on my drawings because the work crews can interpret the rough stuff I give them and make it fit perfect. But with this little guy, if there was a discrepancy between say the plumbing and HVAC equipment, would it get noticed? If I had to make 3D models that were complete down to the last detail I'd have to charge a whole lot more for plansets. Of course if a computer was doing the work I wouldn't have to worry about a bleary-eyed foreman putting the plumbing in the wrong place before the concrete gets poured....

    I'll be interested to see how this goes.
     
  4. thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    I would say that it won't be any different from other jobs that are computer controlled these days. You will have a learning curve for architects that make sloppy blueprints, then you will have an industry that springs around checking blueprints to make sure "contour crafter" would be able to make sense of it, then you would have an industry that springs around blueprint software packages that are "contour crafter"-aware.

    I'd say that it would be no different that what has already happened to the machining industry when it when to CNC milling machines.
     
  5. macrumors 68000

    topicolo

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    #5
    HA HA!!! We are one step closer to living in a world like Command and Conquer! We should get some printouts of a C&C command center going with this printer
     
  6. macrumors P6

    wdlove

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    #6
    I have read that a home built in a factory is of higher quality. The house is built tighter and so more energy efficient.
     
  7. thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #7
    Same as Total Annihilation, there, they called it 'Nanolathing'

    I want a Big Bertha cannon. :D
     
  8. macrumors G3

    Counterfit

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    #8
    WOOHOO! More jobs lost to technology! Well, eventually anyway.
     
  9. macrumors 604

    MrMacMan

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    #9
    lol.

    Command center moves a little and POOF a building... haha.
     
  10. macrumors 68040

    MongoTheGeek

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    #10
    Part of that come from the CAD/CAM software. For a number of years now though there have been desktop models of this where you feed it a CAD design and it makes a rapid prototype. The things are like the bastard children of a 4 axis milling machine and a glue gun. They have some now that can do it with metal. There is even a company that uses one to make the patterns for dies. Seriously cool. Imagine the possibilities when the price comes down. You could have toys or models that you download from the internet. If it breaks or you get tired of it you smash into the hopper and print a new one.
     
  11. macrumors 68040

    MongoTheGeek

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    #11
    Don't think about it as jobs lost to technology. My entire career has been taking work away from people and giving it to machines. The end result has been more people employed, lower costs and better quality. Perhaps my results are atypical but its what I have seen. There is always far more work that needs to be done than there are people to do it.
     
  12. Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

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    #12
    That's friggin great! :D I'd love to see it in action. But one application would be building structures automatically on the Moon or Mars using resources on the planets. Its the right step forward - really cool stuff.

    D
     
  13. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #13

    Well, one major difference is that CNC products are typically produced en masse. Houses are one-time deals. Each one is different. For a CNC milling operation it's well worth it to spend the time prototyping and checking the first piece off the machine to see if it meets spec. But with a house the first piece is also the last. If you mess it up there's no going back and tweaking the design. That's kinda been the problem with all the automated home building machinery so far. One of my professors, in the late '70s, built and wrote all the code for a machine that took your measurements and a stack of stud lumber, plywood, nails etc, made a whole lot of noise and dust, but produced a wall panel to spec. Never took off though, because the tolerances had to be super tight and the drawings had to be perfect, and that added too much cost to make it a viable option.

    And you've obviously never dealt with architects if you think they'll jump at the chance to learn a new piece of software. Heck, a lot of the ones I deal with still draw by hand so they don't have to bother learning anything new. There's software out there that can act like a room full of consultants (also designed by an ex-professor of mine) in conjunction with CAD software. When I saw it demonstrated I was blown away. But it's never taken off because too many in the industry feel that it would take away their creative input (which it won't, it doesn't design for you it just makes sure you aren't creating conflicts that will have to be resolved later at a more costly stage).

    Not that I think this attitude is healthy, on the contrary. I constantly rail against the old guys who won't adapt to new technologies. I'm just telling you that there is a lot of resistance to change in this industry.

    Plus any system like this would have to have a track record of withstanding 25-50 years worth of sun, wind, rain, etc. Many building products have come and gone because they seemed great at the time, but over time they didn't hold up.

    I'm still intrigued by this, but it won't change construction methods for many, many years if at all. Even metal studs are only finally beginning to make serious inroads into the field and those have been around for years and are almost identical to wood construction in how they go together...
     
  14. thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    My dream home would be built on the side of a granite mountain. It would stay cool in the summer, and warm in the winter.

    I wonder if I can convince NORAD to take in boarders. :p
     
  15. macrumors 68040

    MongoTheGeek

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    #15
    I want house built under the dunes with a thick well braced window facing the ocean. The whole thing would be concrete and sealable, with some type of snorkle just in case of storm surge.

    Then again any house on the ocean would probably suffice.
     
  16. macrumors regular

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    #16
    has anyone ever read umm... :eek: i forgot the name, but he wrote the Necromancer. Damn it was a good book too, anyways they had miniaturized robots that built entire cities using nanotechnology. it was some pretty creepy stuff.
     
  17. macrumors regular

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    #17
    The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson! Excellent book. All about nanotech (or nanofacture), which is a few steps beyond this rapid-prototyping technology, but is a logical extension of it.

    (And, Neuromancer is the other one you're thinking of. That was by William Gibson. Same genre, similar ideas, different dudes.)
     
  18. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #18
    I can build you one that will stay warm in winter and cool in summer and it doesn't have to be anywhere near a granite mountain. Granite is notoriously difficult to grade for a driveway. Very very pricey, particularly if fill dirt has to be hauled in from any distance to create the roadbed. Although you would have some very spiffy countertops. :p

    AFAIK, NORAD doesn't take too kindly to house guests. Besides, who wants to live in the crosshairs of a whole bunch of nukes?
     
  19. Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

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    #19
    That's why I live only 10 miles from downtown DC :D

    Who knows what's a target these days.....I don't think it really matters where you live.

    I'd really love to see one of these homes that get built by the robot, though.

    D
     
  20. macrumors 68040

    mactastic

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    #20
    Hehe, I'm less than that from a nuclear power plant that sits on an earthquake fault. I was refering however, to the various countries that have ICBMs pointed at that one particular mountain. Theoretically you could survive a nuclear blast from a mini-nuke that would be typical of a terrorist at a distance of 10 miles particularly if the wind is blowing away from you. But if Cheyenne Mountain gets hit, it's gonna be by something a LOT bigger. Not much will be left then.

    I wanna see the robot in action too. I'm very interested, since being an architect, I may have to actually deal with this little guy someday. Looks like the article says this is happening at USC which isn't more than 4 or 5 hours from where I am. I wonder if I could get a look at this thing? Perhaps some digging around is in order....
     
  21. macrumors 603

    rainman::|:|

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    #21
    it's not on the ocean, but close otherwise:

    http://www.ultimatesecurehome.com/secure_home.htm

    paul
     
  22. macrumors 6502a

    Thanatoast

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    #22
    That house is pretty cool. I don't like their advertising slant, though. "Buy our house to be secure from SARS, terrorists, nuclear winters and 7.0 earthquakes. It would make the house seem kind of stiflig to live in. I'd rather live there because it reminds me of the shire. :D
     
  23. thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    #23
    For ocean property, they have a new line that is supposed to resemble a beached dead Sperm whale. Might be dangerous though if someone decides to dynamite it. ;)
     
  24. macrumors regular

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    #24
    Hey Everyone.

    I am student at UCF and a researcher for its construction lab here. Recently we hosted a conference sponsored by NSF (National Science Foundation) about the construction technology for the future. We had all participants present a poster about their current research and we happened to have the guys from california present their contour crafting technique. It caught a lot of eyes, I asked to leave his poster with me so that I could show it to everyone who visited our lab. It's a really interesting poster and it has pictures of their prototype walls. I remember that their goal was to build a habitable home in 20 hours. He also mentioned that they were trying to make the set up equipment weigh less than 200 pounds (so that they can do more homes). If you guys are interested I'll take a picture of the poster for you guys.
     
  25. macrumors 68040

    MongoTheGeek

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    #25
    You would rule if you did that.
     

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