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We have one of the mid-level mechanical engineering printers at work. It does an object that's about 1' x 1' x >1' by beading epoxy-like stuff repeatedly. You send it an IGES file and it prints it out.

I have to say I've not been impressed by it. A couple of projects have used it to make instrument cases and platforms and I think there is a general sense of regret at not having done it with aluminum. I get the feeling that it is becoming a kind of rapid prototyping stand-in before we can get a machinist to do the real thing. The objects seem to be very brittle and whenever I'm handling one I feel like it might shatter if I sneeze. The cost of making a decent sized object is about $80-$100 in printing material.

We may have a lousy one (I don't recall the brand) but judging from what we have, I don't think printing a really durable object is on the horizon.

I really love the idea of it but I'll do something else with my $5000. For now.

brian wang

List of articles and coverage in mainstream media. Popular Science. Discovery Magazine. NBC, ABC, CBS etc...


Contour crafting is currently printing 6 foot walls. The Caterpillar inc funding will help to get the process to buildings. It will not be large scale for a few more years and it will take quite a while to scale up even with Caterpillar support. The construction industry is a big one and a lot of companies and workers are comfortable with existing methods.

The Futurist


Welcome to my humble blog!

I saw some of those articles, but many are 3 years old.

I want this innovation to revolutionize the world economy just as much as you do, but I just am not convinced that it can scale up and offer the efficiency gains it claims.

I don't think displacing existing practices will be hard. Even if 99 builders are resistant, only 1 builder needs to use it to out-compete the others. The prospect of printing a colony of 3000 sq.foot houses for $50,000 each will not have a shortage of fans.

Chris S.

I believe this would be an exciting prospect in a strong economy, if the demand for houses were strong but I don't know if we're at a point where eliminating more labor is a good thing. While I am pro-technology, and this would make building houses exceedingly efficient, getting rid of more "blue collar" jobs creates potential debacles.

On a completely unrelated note, Intel has somewhat validated your timeframe for the Singularity at or around 2050.


Pretty interesting.

The Futurist

getting rid of more "blue collar" jobs creates potential debacles.

Well... any rapid change is painful at first, but in theory, this invention (which, again, I am not convinced can deliver) will make houses so cheap that the average American could afford three.

So the net effect would still be the same as manufacturing going to China - a loss of jobs, lower wages, but price declines that more than offset that.

Singularity :
Lately, I see more evidence that would lead to a 2060 date, rather than a 2050 date, but it is far too early to tell, and I will stick with the superior URL. Round numbers are attractive, whether for Intel or for me.

Very few serious futurists are suggesting any date later than 2075, however.

Chris S.

Yeah, it really doesn't affect me too much but I guess I am partly sympathetic to those workers.

2050 and 2060 is a marginal difference. I would think there would be "early adopters" of cyborgian technology (hopefully myself) which will render that difference moot. However, it seems that is more of a general timeframe (thus reflected in your URL).


"Even if 99 builders are resistant, only 1 builder needs to use it to out-compete the others. The prospect of printing a colony of 3000 sq.foot houses for $50,000 each will not have a shortage of fans."

Don't forget the incestuous linkage between the established building, plumbing and electrical firms and the construction inspectors and zoning regulators.

For example:
Want to put your own plumbing in with PVC piping? Good luck with that. In the vast majority of locales it is illegal to do so, as the plumbing lobby has gotten all the right laws passed and codes published that says so.

BUT...having said that, to further the original point all it takes is one (1) locale that would be friendly to this type of construction AND a builder willing to try it there, then game over as you say.

I think innovations like panelized home construction will have a far more immediate impact with less regulatory resistance.


The Futurist

to further the original point all it takes is one (1) locale that would be friendly to this type of construction AND a builder willing to try it there, then game over as you say.

Indeed. It does not even have to be in the US. Dubai and China have made large-scale construction a priority and, being non-democracies, will not let existing laws stand in the way of a quick windfall, and will adopt such a device the minute it is out (if such a device actually does come out).


The Futurist,

I know this is woefully off-topic, but I'd love to see your next article on what you think about Governor Palin and how she changes the dynamics of the race.

You might want to wait until things shake out for a while first. But as for me, I already decided to move on from calling libs/media/Obamatons 'Leftists' to calling them 'Stalinists' now that they have shown to the entire world their true colors.

And I'm a pretty cynical guy, by nature. But what they have done/are doing was just over the top even for me.

Chris S.

The Futurist,

Yeah, we might be on the verge of winning the Iraq war but we're not out of the woods yet. There is still Afganistan and Pakistan, being a nuclear power, is a dangerous place for terrorists to be taking refuge in.

While I can breathe a sigh of relief, for now, I dare not imagine if WWIII were to break out. In my opinion, it is almost inevitable.


I would also welcome a post on Palin. It's strange, but I found this blog and David Brin's for their futurist orientation, but ended up more interested in the political posts. (BTW I find Brin's blog a good place for rational Democratic ideas).

The Futurist,
In the original post, how did you come up with the 90% figure? Do you mean $200k properties will be worth $20k?



What have 'Obamatons' done to show their true colors? I'd appreciate either a link or a short description from you. Also, is Obama himself a 'Stalinist' in your eyes?



The true colors I was referring to was many things. First off, the media seems to have finally dropped all remaining pretense of being 'professionally neutral'.

As for the Left in general, generally I have observed that whatever they accuse the right of doing is usually instead an accurate reflection of what they themselves are doing. So, when they brand Republicans as racist or sexist, it is because they themselves are that way. We saw a lot of both those qualities in the Dem primaries and now we are seeing outright misogyny in their regard and treatment of Palin.

And the public is seeing it full force as opposed to only careful observers of the Left only seeing it.

So, when the Left accuses the Right of running secret prisons and what not, expect them to actually run the secret prisons should they ever get into power again. That's what the Stalinists did.

Also, is Obama himself a 'Stalinist' in your eyes?

See my description above. Also, any Lefty who was a protoge/student of Saul Alinksy's tactics qualifies. That means both Hillary and Obama, I am afraid.



For some reason I didn't notice your response until today. Reading about Alinksy/Obama was interesting, thank you.

Any left/right bias in the media is trumped by its lack of facts and intelligent discussion, which is more harmful to the health of our nation.

It is funny to see the left being so overtly sexist, but there are also commentators for the right saying the exact opposite for Palin than they did against Hilary. This is politics; neither side is immune.


The Futurist,
I was reading more about this whole '3-d printing technology, but cannot find anything on what the material would be made out of. I know the ones in use today use polymers or epoxy in the 'cartridge'. So what do they use for concrete?

The Futurist


The material is expensive, and complex constructions require many different types of materials. This is one of the major barriers to this technology's adoption.


The Futurist,
I understand that, and have two thoughts on it.
1- Like all newer technologies in their earliest incarnations, this one is still trying to find the right building blocks and methods to make this technology worth it.
2- To construct a structure, or any other form on a large scale, a large variety of material might have to be used. The only way I can think of around this, would be to find a smaller combination of elements to place into said cartridges, that could be mixed to make a variety of materials depending on their use. I like to think of this adaptation like a normal printer. Most come with 3-4 base colors, and mix them to make thousands of newer colors. Concrete is also like this. You can use more mix, and make it smoother and more aesthetic. Or you can mix more sand into it, and make it more durable, though a little rougher. Same materials, with many possiblities.
Do you think that the key to making this technology practical lies in this concept?

The Futurist


That is why I don't think this machine can scale up to a significant degree. Too many challenges.


The Futurist, this may be of interest. A Ted talk from August 2010



I'm sorry, but isn't the premise here ignoring that the majority of the cost of home construction is the price of land?

The Futurist


Well, no. In most of the US, land is a smaller component of cost than labor. Land is expensive only in the biggest coastal urban areas.

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