Behrokh Khoshnevis, a professor at USC, has devised a robot that, guided by architect’s computerized drawings, can squirt successive layers of concrete to build vertical walls and domed roofs.
Lines of wet concrete are squeezed out of a huge nozzle as if from a gigantic toothpaste tube. Then a pair of trowels attached to the nozzle shape the concrete as the robot repeats the pouring as many times as is necessary to achieve the programmed height.
Khoshnevis’ first robot-built house will be a shell. But he plans to provide the machine with plumbing and electrical systems talents. But he added that the task to install doors or windows is so easy and fast it’s not worth automating.
Initially, such structures would be used as emergency housing or low-cost homes for inner cities and emerging nations. But the federal government is interested in them for military housing and space applications.
Khoshnevis thinks the technology, called Contour Crafting, might be used to create complex curving walls that are too difficult or costly to build by hand. And since robots may one day build houses for a quarter of today’s cost, he believes that perhaps as soon as 2025, “all building will be done this way.”