March 31, 2004
House May Be Automatically Built In 24 Hours

A USC professor is developing technology that will allow a complete house to be built in 24 hours.

Degussa AG, one of the world’s largest manufacturers and suppliers of construction materials, will collaborate in the development of a USC computer-controlled system designed to automatically “print out” full-size houses in hours.

Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, Behrokh Khoshnevis of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Information Sciences Institute has been developing his automated house-building process, called “Contour Crafting,” for more than a year.

Khoshnevis believes his system will be able to construct a full-size, 2,000- square-foot house with utilities embedded in 24 hours. He now has a working machine that can build full-scale walls and is hoping to actually construct his first house in early 2005.

Contour Crafting uses crane- or gantry-mounted nozzles, from which building material - concrete, in the prototype now operating in his laboratory - comes out at a constant rate.

Moveable trowels surrounding the nozzle mold the concrete into the desired shape, as the nozzle moves over the work.

Robots and other automated equipment have increased factory automation so much that factories are a dwinding source of all jobs. The next big target for automation has been and continues to be office work. Office automation is being addressed with the development of huge amounts of software and information systems.

What never seem to get as much attention is how to automate all the other places where people work aside from the office and the factory. Construction automation is an obvious big target. One approach is to do prefabrication of walls and other building pieces in highly automated factories. Then the prefabricated parts can be shipped to the construction site. But automated methods to doing construction at a site have advantages because they avoid the difficulty of shipping large walls, floors, and ceilings to a site. Also, automated site construction techniques allow more flexibility in site design.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 March 31 01:44 AM  Robots Home

Fly said at March 31, 2004 4:59 PM:

Interesting article. I’d like to know what the minimum cost to provide modest housing, utilities, food, clothing, and limited health care could be in the US. One approach to solving the looming Social Security and Medicare problem is to provide a low cost living solution. Rather than paying more for social services, make the money go farther. It would be easier to vote to reduce entitlements if one knew that a minimal quality of life were guaranteed to all citizens.

Imagine a company such as WalMart driving down the cost for housing and limited health care. Low cost communities could be built in non-prime locations across the country. Ideally Social Security would be adequate to make house payments, pay utilities, and buy food and clothing. The community would be designed so that a car wouldn’t be needed.

Is there demand for such communities? Can the free market satisfy that demand?

Randall Parker said at March 31, 2004 5:12 PM:

Fly, The biggest cost for old folks is going to be health care. We need automated ways to deliver treatment and to take care of the invalid. Japanese companies are developing devices to, for instance, help an old person get into a bath tub and to be cleaned. We need similar companies and research centers to work on similar efforts.

Fly said at March 31, 2004 7:12 PM:

“The biggest cost for old folks is going to be health care.” Agreed.

In my field of expertise, telecommunications, there is little funding available for reducing the price of an existing service. There is massive funding available for creating new services that lead to increased revenue. I’m guessing the same holds for medical care. If so, I’d like to see government or foundation grants specifically targeted at lowering the cost to prevent, treat or cure the diseases that put the largest burden on Medicare.

Perhaps the HMO's and insurance companies could lead in this area?

Stephen Gordon said at April 1, 2004 2:09 PM:

I ran with this idea in a post over at the speculist. I compared this technology to fabricators for smaller objects - like electronic gadgets:

beni said at May 17, 2004 12:31 PM:

I would like to know if this technology is available in South Africa. I want to know more about applaying bubbles or fat to concrete to make it less dense and more suitable for building low cost housing in South Africa. thank you

beni said at May 17, 2004 12:31 PM:

I would like to know if this technology is available in South Africa. I want to know more about applaying bubbles or fat to concrete to make it less dense and more suitable for building low cost housing in South Africa. thank you

Niyi Taiwo said at August 28, 2004 12:53 AM:

The same idea of directly 'printing out' reliefs with the aid of numerically controlled multi-axis gantries has been used in building the tracks on electronic circuit boards. I have toyed with the same ideas for years because I continue to see 'flaws' in whatever we install ourselves as opposed to machine controlled installations. Compare our most prized written output to that of an ordinary typewriter for example; the latter is surely more readable to more people.
It surely is the future...

Chris Beaumont said at September 1, 2004 7:49 AM:

This is an old technology. During the heyday of do-it-yourself homebuilding in the 70s, I saw a system for building homes that used a balloon shell and polyurethane foam. The household wiring were essentially printed circuits that were wrapped around the balloon before the foam was sprayed on. The entire house could be built in two days, the first day being used to lay the concrete platform on which the house rested and let it dry. If the hookup for electricity, phone water and sewer service was standardized, the house assembly could simply be plugged in, then the balloon form inflated, then the foam sprayed on. Later, (around two hours) after the foam had set, fireproofing material can be sprayed over the foam and the electrical outlets attached to the PC wiring..

Windows could also be cut and fitted (one uses a hot wire 'saw' to do this)

The beauty of these homes is their insulating ability. By virtue of the shape (a dome) and the insulating strength of foam, they are by far the warmest and most energy-efficient homes made.

A gentleman in Georgia (I think) is also building foam homes with a different.. Again.. they have many advantages..

Depending on the fireproofing, I think it would be possible to leave parts of the shell in their normal (translucent) state. This would give you natural lighting..

Of course they would he hot inside, but this would be easy to address as the high-quality insulation would also make air-conditioning them inexpensive. (imagine living inside of a cooler to get the idea..)


But the biggest advantages are that these dome homes would be very cheap to make...and energy efficient in winter/summer like almost nothing else that is out there.

Foam can be quite strong, too, as the dome is an 'elastic shell' that distributes forces evenly. I wouldn't be surprised if a foam house (one that was anchored to a good foundation in the right manner) *of sufficent thickness* and with an outer coating of slightly harder plastic for durability could just breeze through hurricanes, tornados, etc. that would pulverize most normal homes.

Being waterproof, they also would be very capable of dealing with the environmental situation in places it rained/snowed a lot.

george marcelle said at August 29, 2005 10:22 AM:

All the previous comments dated back to 2004. Has there been housing units produced in 2005, have they been approved by the relevant authority
, have they been cost effective and what number units need to be constructed to reach break even cost of initial capital expenditure.

moladi said at November 22, 2007 9:18 PM:

moladi, a South African Company and International supplier for the past 21 years, the pioneer of a one-step casting process for the construction of homes,"...Simply cast a whole house in a day, employing unskilled labour, reducing time, waste and cost, eliminating chasing for plumbing and electrical pipe work, plastering and beam filling, resulting in a wall stronger than brick. A cost effective, holistic design and build technology that far outweighs poorly designed costly concrete-block and masonry structures…

Lack of resources, insufficient funds, skills shortage, time constraints, work flow control and waste are key challenges embodied in affordable housing shortages. Our technology addresses these issues and this is why individuals and organisations recognise moladi as the solution to housing needs throughout the world. We supply technology and support transfer of know-how by means of on site training, internationally.

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Ali Noor said at November 27, 2007 10:39 PM:

I am currently get a 20 ace land in Kenya and would like to know the easiest way to build affordable housing and quickly. I hear of silicon molding is that the word please help me and where I can find the company in south African thanks

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