The future of manufacturing will probably rely heavily on 3D printing. If you aren’t yet familiar with the process, Wikipedia defines 3D printing or “Additive manufacturing” as “a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model. 3D printing is achieved using an additive process, where successive layers of material are laid down in different shapes.” The process is basically the opposite of traditional machining techniques that rely on cutting or drilling to remove material (a subtractive process).
It’s all very Star Trek. The uses for this technology seem endless. For example, you might remember the recent controversy in the news about The Liberator, the world’s first 3D printed gun.
Now, researchers from the University of Southern California have created a 3D printer that can build a 2,500 sq. ft. house–in 24 hours.
To build the house, a giant robot with a hanging nozzle and a crane-mounted flexible arm layers concrete over a foundation. The robot is guided by a computer-generated pattern. The layers eventually shape into walls, complete with all the conduits for electricity, plumbing, HVAC or other utilities.
The researchers hope that in the future the robots could be used to build emergency shelter for disaster relief or to create affordable housing.
To learn more, check out “The 3D Printer That Can Build a House in 24 hours” over at MSN, which includes an illustration of the robot.
— M Weber