“In manufacturing, there is a process called CAD/CAM (computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing),” said Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor of industrial and systems engineering at the University of Southern California. “A lot of things that you see are designed on computers and without any human interference are sent to the production machinery that automatically makes those products that you use.
“So we want to scale-up those processes and bring them to the realm of construction.”
Khoshnevis is also the creator of Contour Crafting, a 3D printing process that can automate the construction process for housing and other large projects. He hopes to use the technology to generate entire neighbourhoods at a fraction of the cost of conventional building.
“The architectural design is basically sent to the machine directly; the material, which is cementitious – initially concrete – is deposited through a nozzle and the building is built layer by layer,” Khoshnevis explained. “In the process, a lot of things can be done including automatic reinforcement, automatic plumbing, automatic electrical network installation and once the basic structure is done there could be other automated processes that could do auxiliary operations
such as finish work, tiling and even painting.
“In the end the whole building can be ready in an unprecedented time; we anticipate that an average house … can be built in about 20 hours, custom designed.”
The effect these homes would have on builders is obvious. But for brokers -- whose job it is to find funding for homebuyers – these 3D-modelled homes could be built in lower-income areas and thus open the market up to an entirely new demographic. And, of course, provide a new pool of potential homebuyers who require a mortgage.
Don’t worry: We’re not talking about homes made of Playdo or, even, plaster of Paris. Rather brokers may soon be arranging mortgages for cement houses made entirely by 3D printing.