3D Printing with Concrete – The Future of Construction?

by Fred Abler

The ability to ‘materialize’ 3D geometry with additive manufacturing has revolutionized rapid prototyping and design, and in some cases replaced machining of limited-run parts or specialty fittings, etc.

However, it has yet to replace any significant manufacturing method already in place. A company called Contour Crafting in Southern California hopes to change that. They want your next house to be additively manufactured with ‘layered-in-place’ concrete.

Fig 1 – 3D Model of the Contour Crafting ‘layered-in-place’ concrete 3D printing system. The company claims it can 3D Print your next house from stiff-mix concrete in under 20 hours. Image courtesy of Contour Crafting.

Contour Crafting is a spin-out of NASA funded research in additive manufacturing for extraterrestrial construction conducted by University of Southern California professor, Dr. Behrokh Khoshnevis, “the inventor” of contour crafting.

You can watch this rather middling TEDx presentation by Dr. Kohshnevis (link provided in resources) which has been bookmarked to the more interesting coverage of his NASA research and discussion of earthquake suitability of this construction method.

[ Purple Comment: Let’s just do away with TEDx shall we!! Let’s save TED for true super-geniuses. I can’t understand why TED doesn’t realize the x-factor is killing its brand ]

More impressive is ongoing research at the Loughborough University in the UK. The technology is similar to Contour Crafting, but with a much more sophisticated application – unique concrete elements that complement the construction process.

This ‘added’ sophistication is due in no small part to the research units collaboration with Foster + Partners. F+P are known for architectural masterworks and expressive engineering. They understand technology-as-form giver as well as anyone on the planet.

Video –  The Future of Construction – 3D Concrete Printing. Life scale concrete building components are printed with building systems inside. Definitely worth watching!!


In short –  Though still the realm of research and development, the potential of additive manufacturing for concrete building elements is clear – more geometric complexity!

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