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Contour Crafting earns Khoshnevis top design prize

The man behind the innovative 3-D printing technology thinks big, as in houses

Contour Crafting, 3-D printing
Contour Crafting is a computerized construction method that 3-D prints large-scale structures.
(Photo/Contour Crafting)

USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis won the grand prize in the 2014 Create the Future Design Contest for his innovative construction method. Contour Crafting yields 3-D prints of large-scale structures such as houses, bridges and emergency shelters.

Created to help stimulate and reward engineering innovation, the annual event attracts thousands of product design ideas worldwide from engineers, entrepreneurs and students in such categories as electronics, aerospace and defense, medical and consumer products.

Khoshnevis’ technology was submitted in the category of machinery, automation and robotics and won out over more than 1,000 other entries across all categories. As the contest’s 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, individuals may soon be able to 3-D print entire buildings.

Build a house in less than a day

Incorporated by Khoshnevis earlier this year, Contour Crafting is expected to 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 also could provide a cheap, eco-friendly and efficient solution to cramped urban areas and developing countries 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 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. His construction technology would allow scientists to build laboratories and housing structures on the moon or on other planets to sustain long-term research projects.

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Contour Crafting earns Khoshnevis top design prize

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