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3D Printers To Build Houses

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the spray-that-right-here dept.

305

gbjbaanb writes to point out an article in the Sunday Times describing two separate programs where robots are being developed to build houses. The Los Angeles project is farther along than the one in the UK, but the article provides more details on the techniques employed in the latter. Liquid concrete and gypsum will be sprayed from nozzles in a manner analogous to an inkjet printer. From the article: "The first prototype — a watertight shell of a two-story house built in 24 hours without a single builder on site — will be erected in California before April. The robots are rigged to a metal frame, enabling them to shuttle in three dimensions and assemble the structure of the house layer by layer. The sole foreman on site operates a computer programmed with the designer's plans... Inspired by the inkjet printer, the technology goes far beyond the techniques already used for prefabricated homes. 'This will remove all the limitations of traditional building,' said [an architect involved with the UK project]. 'Anything you can dream you can build.'"

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305 comments

first post (0, Offtopic)

Gay Akuma (1047180) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611296)

first post

Re:first post (5, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611306)

As soon as HP hears about this, we'll have $15,000 Housejet cartridges.

Don't buy new cartridges (5, Funny)

Spazoo (1051394) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611562)

It will probably be cheaper to buy new robots that come with cartridges.

Re:Don't buy new cartridges (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611788)

...But the new robots only come with 15ml of gypsum.

Refills (2, Funny)

tygerstripes (832644) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611640)

Well, you could buy the really, really big concrete-refill syringes instead, but you usually get gypsum all over your hands. It's best just to trade them in at a concrete-cartridge recycling centre.

Re:first post (1)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611704)

As soon as HP hears about this, we'll have $15,000 Housejet cartridges.

Not to mention it'll take five cartridges to fill the Housejet. Also for some bizzare reason the cheapest material cartridge, the wall cartridge, will cost more than either the window or electrical cartridge.

Re:first post (2, Funny)

holywarrior21c (933929) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611714)

and $5000 refills which never work?

Giant Legos (2, Interesting)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611854)

This doesn't replace my idea to construct a house made out of giant legos does it? Because I totally want that, about 1000 mostly hollow plastic legos could make a house in an afternoon.

Re:Giant Legos (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612152)

There are (or is) no such thing as legos, shitcock.

Re:Giant Legos (3, Funny)

MindKata (957167) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612198)

"This doesn't replace my idea to construct a house made out of giant legos does it"

That idea has already been done ... they are called "Bricks".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brick [wikipedia.org]

Bugs? (1)

Umbral Blot (737704) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611322)

What happens when the "ink" clogs?

Re:Bugs? (5, Funny)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611348)

"No Sir, it's not a printing error, it's an architectural feature."

Re:Bugs? (4, Funny)

heroofhyr (777687) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611390)

What happens when the "ink" clogs?
The robot contractor tells the worker robots to go on their lunch break and then he disappears for six months and doesn't return your calls.

Re:Bugs? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612106)

You just replace a cartridge, but cartridges cost just as much as a new machine so just buy a new machine.

Neat (1)

Rhinobird (151521) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611326)

But how to you turn gypsum into windows?

Re:Neat (1)

CapitalT (987101) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611334)

Windows and doors are one of the last things you install in a building (at least here).

From the article (2, Informative)

Llywelyn (531070) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611442)

" It may eventually be possible to use specially treated gypsum instead of glass window panes."

Re:Neat (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612116)

That won't be available until "House Builder 2.0" comes out.

Uh... (5, Funny)

cptgrudge (177113) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611332)

"Anything you can dream you can build."

That seems overly optimistic. I think there are a few laws of physics that would disagree.

Dreams (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611378)

Countless generations of architects had their dreams destroyed by civil engineers.

But now, they can just have a computer give them a BSOD.

Re:Uh... (2, Insightful)

MicrosoftRepresentit (1002310) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611502)

It also requires the entire house is made of concrete and gypsum.

What about this revision? (1)

cgenman (325138) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611842)

Anything you can dream, as long as it is sufficiently [we-make-mo...ot-art.com] ugly [nationalmuseum.no] , you can build.

They didn't mention.... (2, Funny)

DrYak (748999) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612086)

That seems overly optimistic. I think there are a few laws of physics that would disagree.


They said that it could be built. They didn't mention if the built structure had to still hold together once the scaffold is removed...

Re:Uh... (4, Funny)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612178)

I asked them for an estimate to build this [camosun.bc.ca] , I'm still waiting for them to get back to me.

Inkjet Plumbing? (2, Insightful)

mrshowtime (562809) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611344)

Is the "printer" going to print out liquid gypsum plumbing and electrical work as well? I actually had to cancel my contract on a house because the builder laid out the plumbing a foot off, which to them was no big deal. I was lucky I caught them and did my own measurements after the slab was poured, otherwise I would have had a ticking time bomb regarding the plumbing and possibly severe drainage problems.

Re:Inkjet Plumbing? (2, Interesting)

jacksonj04 (800021) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611368)

Doubtful, but it would be fairly simple (from what I can gather) to have the 'printer' work in tandem with another device which can accurately place pre-manufactured plumbing, wiring etc.

Of course how that device works is another issue, but you could end up with a single mobile 'rig' which can just move along an empty row of plots and build houses all day. Quicker and cheaper than a load of builders.

Re:Inkjet Plumbing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611380)

RTFA! the californian one won't, but the UK one will be designed to lay out tracts either into which pipes will be laid, or will be pipes themselves (I don't know enough whether this is a good or bad thing). I imagine wiring will be laid into pre-set grooves.

At least the measurements will be spot on though, no more 100 degree corners :)

Re:Inkjet Plumbing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611890)

Someone needs to invent a pipe printer, then you could lay the pipes first, then pour the concrete around those pipes. Maybe even laying additional pipes for future use(Ethernet anyone?).

I'm sure using some kind of thermosetting plastic "wouldn't be too hard".

Re:Inkjet Plumbing? RTFA (2, Informative)

simm1701 (835424) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612190)

The rival British system is likely to take at least a week but will include more sophisticated design features, with the computer's nozzle weaving in ducts for water pipes, electrical wiring and ventilation within the panels of gypsum or concrete.


I've used the new push together plastic plumbing myself to fit a shower - its extremely easy and down right fool proof. As long as these ducts were smooth and gently curved at corvers pushing this piping down it should not be an issue - ditto for electricals (and cat5)

The sensible designer would also future proof their house by having redundant ducting installed at build time for any future need.

We'll still need Polish Plumbers (2, Interesting)

giafly (926567) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611372)

... also painters, electricians, interior decorators, glaziers, etc.. This system seems to miss out most of the fiddly, expensive jobs.

How does it put the layer of insulation in the wall cavities? Is there a way of producing foamed concrete? That would be cool.

Finally "possibly even wallpaper". This is a really bad idea. I used to live in the Barbican [wikipedia.org] in London, which used textured concrete surfaces for the walls of its stairs and communal areas, and my knuckles still bear the scars

Need to start somewhere (4, Insightful)

mccalli (323026) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611414)

It's true that these won't produce fully fledged ready to move into homes, but it's still a start isn't it? Providing the quality is good then I'm all in favour of moves like this.

I have a couple of domestic robots, the Roomba and Scooba. I still need a vacuum cleaner and a mop, but only to handle the fiddly bits (stairs, furniture, round the back of the fridge etc.). The vast bulk of the work is handled by the two robots. I view these projects in the same way - they're a good starting point and will do a large amount of the work, but you'll still need some skill and manual work at the end to finish things off.

I used to live in the Barbican in London...
I'm working there and posting from there now. You have my deepest sympathies, horrible place. I'm from Sheffield - up there we dynamite places like the Barbican, not slap preservation orders on them.

Cheers,
Ian

Re:Need to start somewhere (0)

Macthorpe (960048) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611544)

Lived in Sheffield for 2 years when I was (failing) at university there. Lovely city - I fully intend to move back there at some point.

Re:Need to start somewhere (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611978)

I have a couple of domestic robots
Domesticated robots? Robots need to be free to be in the wild.

Re:We'll still need Polish Plumbers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612082)

The narrated version on the website states that the mechanism puts in insulation, plumbing and electrics as it goes. Seems like it could cut a LOT of time off a build, having the builders just add the finishing touches and the windows.

Plumbing problem solved... (2, Funny)

behindthecamera (964294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612186)

Plumbing is no problem; they just hook this baby up to the Internets. After all, plumbing is just fancy tubing, and the Internet is a series of tubes...

Test page? (5, Funny)

ZeroTrace (594778) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611384)

What happens if you print a test page? Does it build a giant HP logo?

Re:Test page? (4, Funny)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611700)

I have "PC LOAD LETTER" embedded in my floor for some reason.

Super old (3, Informative)

Atario (673917) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611388)

119. Need a Home in a Hurry? Press Print [popsci.com]
Jun 29, 2004
An oversize printer could speed up building construction.

Re:Super old (4, Funny)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612142)

Good to see they've been working on this for awhile, for a moment I thought we'd been stealing technology from the aliens again.

The LA project... (1)

dave420 (699308) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611396)

... is ahead, but less advanced. From the article it seems the Loughborough one can create more complicated designs, and include all the functional aspects of the house (ducts, etc.). It takes longer, but you actually get a house after it's done :)

A bit short on links... (5, Informative)

mindriot (96208) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611398)

A few links could of course have helped this article... I think contourcrafting.org [contourcrafting.org] seems to be more or less the right page for the California project. The videos and animations [isi.edu] are quite worth seeing.

For the Loughborough one, the closest I could come up with was Dr Soar's website [lboro.ac.uk] ...

Organised crime (2, Funny)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611404)

How are the Maf*a et al going to hide their bodies now if the concrete side of things is automated? Actually, thinking about it things could go the other way for them. Concrete shoes sir? What style? Any particular heel?

How do they do the roof? (2, Insightful)

bir0 (315616) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611410)

After watching the video of a 3D printer posted a few days back, I don't really understand how they do the top of things. What do they do when the top is flat. I can understand the floor, but does the top of everything else above the floor have to be a dome? Will it be like living in Tatooine? (Tunisia?) Dome I understand, but how does a spray of concrete/gypsum defy gravity long enough to set flat?

(I'm hesitant asking this question, it might be blatantly obvious to everyone but me. :-/)

Re:How do they do the roof? (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611628)

After watching the video of a 3D printer posted a few days back, I don't really understand how they do the top of things. What do they do when the top is flat.
The way some 3D printers for rapid prototyping work is that they mix a type of glue with the material the object is made of -- let's say it's sand. So when you're building something, the printer is effectively outputting a cube of sand layer by layer but for each layer, where the object's structure is there's the cross-section of glue also laid down. I'm probably not explaining it that well, but I hope it makes sense. A flat surface will be supported by all of the sand that's beneath it. When the last layer is done, you let it set for a while so that the glue hardens and then you take some compressed air and blow away all the sand, leaving the structure of the object behind.

The article was vague so I'm not sure what method is used, but I doubt you'll be blowing away 500 cubic meters of concrete and gypsum powder to reveal your house structure at the end. So I'm also wondering about any flat surfaces.
 

Re:How do they do the roof? (1)

Joebert (946227) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611790)

Think of a spider web & what would happen to it if sprayed with fillers on the same scale.
An arm that ran spider-like strands that created a base could make is possible.

Re:How do they do the roof? (1)

Tatarize (682683) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611752)

The prototyping machine as currently set grabs some boards and crap from the sides and puts them on. You are correct that doors and windows, and even roofs are special cases. It is rather powerless for things such as dome which require scaffolding.

Re:How do they do the roof? (3, Informative)

gundersd (787946) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612120)

You aroused my curiosity, and it turns out that the video at http://www.isi.edu/craft/CC/Welcome_files/resource s/animation.html [isi.edu] (thanks to mindriot for pointing this out) shows a simple solution. For those on limited bandwidth connections, the basic gist of it is that the floor & walls are "printed" and then a separate robot arm picks up some flat (almost I-beam looking things) that it lays across the roof. The I-beams are then "printed" over to hold them in place & seal them.

Re:How do they do the roof? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612200)

The way I would do it is 'print' roof/ceiling sections on the ground, then automatically lift them in place when set. If you do these sections first, they'd probably be set enough by the time they're needed.

You'd do the same above windows and doors.

Would be nice if the printhead had a steel wire dispenser to add reinforcement to the concrete.

Inkjet? (3, Funny)

Zonk (troll) (1026140) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611412)

Inspired by the inkjet printer, the technology goes far beyond the techniques already used for prefabricated homes.
So when it rains the house is going to smear?

Who puts in the rebar? (4, Interesting)

Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611432)

If there isn't reinforcement, how does the floor on the second story (first story for the UK project :-)) support itself? Is it arched or something?

How does it stay watertight? Do they just mean it will keep the rain off for long enough to get a real roof installed? Or are they planning on leaving it with a concrete roof?

What keeps the concrete from slumping while it's being sprayed? Does someone have to put up forms ahead of time?

Re:Who puts in the rebar? (2, Funny)

fbjon (692006) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611762)

the second story (first story for the UK project :-))
Dupe story for slashdot.

Re:Who puts in the rebar? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611844)

No rebar. The concrete, or whatever they use, is spread with a consistency of particularly goopy toothpaste, or maybe more akin to butter. It comes out in lines of some predetermined thickness and is set directly on top of previous lines. The stuff is sufficiently resistant, even wet, that it doesn't slump. A tool on the side of the printer smooths the sides of the material as it is deposited.

The ceilings are installed from prefab sections of (presumably) metal dropped in to place by another robot arm attachment, then concrete is sprayed overtop of them. This is very similar to the way concrete floors are installed in steel frame buildings, except here a robot is doing it, and the concrete is layed down in strips.

I am, however, a bit anxious about the absence of rebar. What provides shear resistance without rebar? Is the concrete (take that word to mean either concrete or similar material their squeezing out to build these structures) ductile, reinforced with some kind of internal fibers, or otherwise designed not to crumble when the earthquake comes?

They are building these things in California, a part of the world well acquainted with earthquakes, so I'd expect they've thought about this, no? I don't live in California, but I am in an area particularly prone to particularly powerful earthquakes. I wouldn't want to live in one of these structures until someone explained very carefully to me why exactly it won't fall down and hit me on the head.

No rebar means no concrete (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612136)

Concrete without rebar isn't concrete. The cement+sand+gravel mixture has compression strength but is very limited in tensile strength. Translated into english this means that if you push it, it holds; if you pull it, it breaks. Rebar is put into the parts where, from calculations and experience, engineers know that the stress is tensile, that is the concrete is suffering an elongation there. For instance, in a horizontal beam the stress is compressive in the top, tensile in the bottom.


In big structures, like highway bridges or airport landing strips, concrete is often pre-stressed. They use steel cables in the bottom part of the concrete and tighten those cables up by threading nuts into the cables ends. This means the concrete is always under compression so it has less tendency to crack from tensile stress.

finally (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611446)

I always thought the first robot house builders would nail 2x4s. Anyway, tell me this costs less than $50,000 a house and Im sold. -$10,000 would be great.

Re:finally (1)

montyzooooma (853414) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611692)

Unfortunately the price of land isn't coming down any time soon.

Re:finally (1)

mastershake_phd (1050150) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611926)

Not including land of course. If this global warming keeps up there will be some more prime real estate. I call dibs on Antarctica.

Brilliant news for the 3rd World (5, Insightful)

eugene_roux (76055) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611450)

The biggest problem we have here in the third world, other than education, is housing.

Currently what happens is that -- in the urbunising of people -- most people tend to build with whatever materials they have available leading to shanty-towns all over Africa with people living in shack-like hovels.

If this technology is able to deliver, and deliver cheaply, we might just have one of the technologies needed to bootstrap Africa out of abject poverty.

The other major problem, education, might just be in the hands of the OLPC guys...

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (2, Insightful)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611566)

Abject poverty = lots of cheap labour.

Assuming that building lots of houses is going to kick-start the economy, you could do it far more efficiently by letting real people do the work. For money. But where does the money come from, for the labour and for the materials?

Aid?

There have been so many "simple solutions" it's just not funny any more.

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (2, Insightful)

dk.r*nger (460754) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611634)

Aid?


Maybe. But if private property and rule of law was established instead of just dumping money, then people would be able to own their houses (and be relatively safe in the knowledge that a random warlord won't show up and take it), which again allows them to take out mortgages.
When people can lend money to build houses, they can choose other materials than banana peels and dirt.

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611814)

Too bad that loans are forbidden in Islam ... so 1/5th of the world's population cannot do this.

PC police would call what you are saying a "racist comment". Like distributing pork soup to the homeless :

http://www.canadafreepress.com/2007/brussels010407 .htm [canadafreepress.com]

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (3, Informative)

Calinous (985536) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612008)

Loans are allowed in Islam - taking interest from a loan is not.
      However, there are islamic banks that take no interest (taxes a loan in different ways), so even in the most islamic country you could take a loan from the most islamic bank

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (1)

RegularFry (137639) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611582)

If I'm remembering correctly, it's even better than it sounds from the article. Given strong enough sunlight, I believe it can use mud instead of cement. This is half-remembered from the last time this concept came around (a couple of years ago, I think), so it may have been ditched, but if it's true... well, yay all round, really.

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611798)

I expect some mighty palaces to be erected in the land of Elbonia then.

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (1)

nfarrell (127850) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611636)

Speaking from a potential third world (Australia), I'd just like to point out the other bane of civilisation: corruption. All the laptops and quick-setting concrete in the world is no good by itself. You need a government that's willing to give its population what's needed, rather than doing what's in the politicians' self-interest.

Also, if there's one thing that's not lacking in developing countries, it's cheap labour. Giving people jobs would seem to me a higher priority than buying advanced robotics from overseas.

Nonetheless, it's still a sexy technology. Maybe they can use something like this to build our moon-bases with: less gravity to cause cave-ins, and no need for that pesky oxygen.

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611786)

And then you do ... what. As practice proves putting people who used to be so far from eachother that they couldn't possibly reach one another in a city, so close that they can no longer deny their differences ... people start killing eachother.

Education is nice, but takes 10 years at least and parents WANT their children to kill "the other bastards" (for various definitions of "the other bastards"). E.g. terrorism in the west.

Then again ... nobody knows what will happen.

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611990)

The poor people in Africa need government that will not restrict free trade. It is not technological problem, it is a political problem.

Re:Brilliant news for the 3rd World (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612014)

The poor people in Africa need government that will not restrict free trade. It is not technological problem, it is a political problem.



Oh yes .. free trade, the solution for everything.



I'm sure there is plenty of free trade in most of the countries there. Heck, with enough money, you can probably buy any government official, from a lowly cop up to the head honcho (if anything like that exists and the country is not in a state of civil war and/or quasi-anarchy).



Free trade doesn't stamp out corruption. And the latter is the biggest problem.

define build time (2, Insightful)

picob (1025968) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611456)

The first prototype -- a watertight shell of a two-story house built in 24 hours without a single builder on site -- will be erected in California before April. The robots are rigged to a metal frame, enabling them to shuttle in three dimensions and assemble the structure of the house layer by layer. The sole foreman on site operates a computer programmed with the designer's plans...


Maybe the house can be built in 24 hours, but how long does it take to build the metal rails for the robots? Are the robots reusable or do we have to add the build time for the robots? How long does it take to program the robots?

The process can probably be optimized by firing the people who work on this project and replacing them by robots.

SCV? (1)

p0 (740290) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611462)

Let us all welcome our new house building SCV overloads!

Re:SCV? (1)

Darko8472 (966542) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611708)

"Good to go, Sir" indeed. :)

Re:SCV? (1)

Andrew Kismet (955764) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611734)

Starcraft came to my mind too, but more recently I've been playing Dawn of War: Dark Crusade as Tau, and their construction is similar. They start by dropping a framework via aircraft, and then use their robotic builders to build the actual building around the framework. This technology is remarkable similar, except the framework is build and the robots aren't free-roaming. Still, it's a start towards greater things.

Get your own one (1)

AYeomans (322504) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611494)

Dolls-house size! See Fab@Home [fabathome.org] or see the New Scientist report. [newscientisttech.com]

Finally!!! (1)

Zaatxe (939368) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611498)

I finally feel like I'm living in a post 2000 era!

(I just read the headline, to be honest)

Is it just me, (1)

StaticFish (839708) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611576)

Or do Slashdot article titles get more extreme and ridiculous each and every day? I swear I'm going to wake up one day and find the headline "Robot Superchickens developing new nano-technology to fight humans"

Pictures! (1)

elrond1999 (88166) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611594)

Why is it that interesting stories like this never carry pictures!

Here are some at least:
http://www.contourcrafting.org/ [contourcrafting.org]

A truly horrible idea (2, Informative)

Flying pig (925874) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611702)

Do you really want to live in a concrete house in the English climate? Concrete is good for tropical and warm climates where rainfall is not too high, but in the UK where humidity is high most of the year it is a recipe for damp and mould. And, as the formet Soviet Union showed us, it does not make for a particularly attractive architecture. Fine in Ca., where there is room to build and spread, but in the UK most new build is tiny terraced boxes. Think Soviet-era brutalistic apartment blocks, because that is what you will most likely get.

In the UK, there is usually a bloody good reason for the traditional building materials and designs in any area. Mass builders just drop standardised buildings at any angle to the weather which suits them, and then the owners wonder why the walls are always wet, or tiles fall off every time the prevailing wind blows.

The five year gap before it is due to be commercialised in the UK may be due to the development needed to address UK-specific building problems, but it is more likely just to be under funding.

In case you think this is Luddite prejudice, I live in a town where many houses date back to the 17th Century and are built of local materials. Part of the town centre was demolished in the 1970s to build small modern houses. Guess which houses had to be demolished less than 30 years later? New builds this century are already starting to look a bit decrepit as the wind and rain (which are thrown off by our local stone) do their work on cheap modern building materials.

Re:A truly horrible idea (1)

Zelos (1050172) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611806)

I guess I must be imagining the damp, mould, leaks, draughts and appalling noise insulation in my "designed for the local climate" Victorian terrace then.

Re:A truly horrible idea (4, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611856)

Concrete is good for tropical and warm climates where rainfall is not too high, but in the UK where humidity is high most of the year it is a recipe for damp and mould.

Actually, the recipe for mold is insufficient insulation and improper heating/ventilation habits.


None of these have particularly much to do with concrete, other than concrete requiring a few more cm of insulation on the outside than bricks.

Maybe not A truly horrible idea (2, Insightful)

newandyh-r (724533) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611892)

Concrete has been used to build some very attractive housing in the UK - not just horrible blocks. In the "Art Deco" (I think) period of the '20s some architects made excellent use of the material - especially it's ability to form smooth curves. See examples in the "Poirot" TV series, for example.
Of course, I don't know how practical they are for everyday living, but I suspect they are no worse than typical modern rabbit-hutches.
The problem will be
    find your building plot
    get a design made
    spend six months getting planning permission
    spend another six months modifying to meet building regulations
    a month preparing the site
    organise the manchinery to arrive
    put everything off for a week when the typical British weather opens up
    then you can build in a day

somewhere in that sequence there should be the traditional /. "profit", but I don't see it.

Andy

Re:A truly horrible idea (1)

jools33 (252092) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612032)

Well here in Sweden where we usually (not this year though its been really warm this year) get winter temperatures as low as -20 and lower - probably 50% of the accommodation is concrete appartment blocks - and I can guarantee you from living in one for the last 5 years - that they are a damned site warmer than the typical British construction for a modern house - which in my experience is mostly plywood and insulation foam - with a fake brick exterior. Concrete is an exceptionally good and cheap building material - that only has a bad rep in the UK due to a building boom in the 60s and 70s when they really didnt know how to design decent concrete buildings (these will be your 30 year old knockdown buildings).

Re:A truly horrible idea (1)

TheVoice900 (467327) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612048)

My university, SFU [www.sfu.ca] , is in one of the rainiest regions of Canada and is built almost entirely out of concrete. We have some problems with leaks in the older buildings, but overall I haven't seen a whole lot of problems with mold...

Too good to be true? (2, Insightful)

mystery_boy_x (322417) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611712)

My first thoughts: Wow! This could revolutionize, like, everything!

Second thoughts: Hang on a sec. Sounds too good to be true.

I'm having visions of street after street, suburb after suburb, of awful robot-built houses right now.

Re:Too good to be true? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611740)


>I'm having visions of street after street, suburb after suburb, of awful robot-built houses right now.

Ah, that would be Holland

Re:Too good to be true? (3, Insightful)

vhogemann (797994) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612176)

I think its quite the opposite,

Intricate details, decorations, and such will be much easier, and cheaper, to do using these robotic constructors.

It would be easy to get the finished plans, and add every bit of baroque extravagance to your house using a CAD program, and being able to preview it real-time. Everybody will have a chance to be a Gaudí [wikipedia.org] .

Astronomical potential (2, Interesting)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611754)

Ooooo, orbital structures. It may not be able to make the solar panels, but this might be able to take a lot of the work out of putting together a Solar Power Satellite [wikipedia.org] , and some day even an orbital colony. Or planet-based colony, I suppose, for you land-loving heathens.

About time! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611778)

The idea is not new....

I fail to see the necessity of (and, accordingly, I resent bitterly) all these coral-reef methods. Better walls than this, and better and less life-wasting ways of making them, are surely possible. In the wall in question, concrete would have been cheaper and better than bricks if only "the men" had understood it. But I can dream at last of much more revolutionary affairs, of a thing running to and fro along a temporary rail, that will squeeze out wall as one squeezes paint from a tube, and form its surface with a pat or two as it sets.

H.G. Wells, ANTICIPATIONS OF THE REACTION OF MECHANICAL AND SCIENTIFIC PROGRESS UPON HUMAN LIFE AND THOUGHT (1902 second edition [gutenberg.org] )

I can't wait to see the business model (1, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611782)

I can just imagine the business model now... sell the robot for $49.95 and the 'ink' cartridges for $49950 (good for a volume of 5m^3). House plans will be loaded via usb stick, but they can only be designed with licensed software ($100000/user), and only then by architects who have attended the $50000 training course, which must be attended every two years.

Within hours of release someone will have reverse engineered the 'ink' cartridge slot to take generic branded concrete bags, and the private keys for signing the plans will follow a few days later. The manufacturers will release a statement saying that using generic branded 'ink' cartridges will void the warranty and may not give you the quality you want. On closer inspection, the quality statement is possibly true, but only marginally and nobody cares. As for warranty, it is cheaper to go and buy a new unit than to put up with the downtime caused by waiting for a repair.

Long and drawn out legal proceedings will begin, firstly against the hackers who released the original hack for the concrete bags, and then against the hackers who released the signing keys, but it will be ruled that you have to identify and locate the defendant first before you can prosecute them. After a succession of grandmothers and 8 year old girls are brought before the judge as being the original culprits, the case is thrown out, eventually.

Then they'll start bringing charges against the users who are using the 3rd party products, but that never works, and they haven't actually made enough money yet to be able to 'influence' any congressmen to get on their side.

And so on.

Re:I can't wait to see the business model (1)

ganjadude (952775) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611972)

somebody PLEASE think of the children....

im serious One roof for every child

but seriously think of the possibilities, you go out camping and you bring your printer with you and TADA, you got a roof over your head in the middle of no where

i cant wait for the erasable ink

Hurray! (1)

crhylove (205956) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611858)

Sweet! Now if I can just imagine some real estate that I could actually afford in San Diego County.

The economics of the situation. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17611894)

It does not take 200 days to build a house. An example of mass production would be 'tract housing'. Such houses go up really fast (but not a day). It might take 200 person days to build a house. So, with weekends off and vacations, we could round that up to a person year. That person year might cost $100,000.

The robot might cost $1,500,000. The interest on that much money is probably $150,000. If the robot builds even two houses per year, it is profitable.

I realize that I have left out a bunch of stuff but you get the general idea. It's the same reason you dig basements with a mechanical digger. Even if labor was free, it would cost more to dig a basement by hand!

I don't think so..... (5, Funny)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611946)

"If you ask a bricklayer to lay bricks in anything other than a straight line, you'll run into problems," said Soar. "But if you ask the robot to make a squiggly line it really doesn't care." I'm sure there are many a brickmason who can run bricks in many formations besides a straight line. I'm positive on this fact because the brickmasons who did my foundation was anything but straight.

What will this do to housing prices? (5, Insightful)

mrjb (547783) | more than 7 years ago | (#17611948)

The machine builds houses in 1/200 of the time at 1/5 of the cost. Who wants to bet the price of houses will stay around the same level? Almost any random 2-bedroom house in the Netherlands costs a quarter of a million euros nowadays. The same size house sells around a hundred thousand in Portugal. In Canada, this price range can get you a 5-bedroom house. Based on these numbers, it would seem to me that the cost of building the house itself is just a minor factor in the price of a house.

Re:What will this do to housing prices? (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612050)

Who wants to bet the price of houses will stay around the same level?

Well, the robot won't change anything about the prices for real estate (which can be up to 50% of the price of the house), so ...

Are there robotic inspectors? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612006)

Oh great. So are there robotic inspectors or is it the wink wink, nudge nudge. Oh wait, the robots wouldn't take bribes.

Who needs illiegal workers now...hummm? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#17612128)

Well I guess now we know how the southern border wall will be built without mexican labor.

carbon footprint? (1)

StuckInSyrup (745480) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612134)

What's a carbon footprint?
from TFA: "The robots will also create a smaller "carbon footprint" than conventional building methods;"

Deja vu.. (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 7 years ago | (#17612204)

I'm pretty sure /. has covered this before. [slashdot.org]

-jcr
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