This post is contributed by Greg Fisher, who conducted research on the question above, in partnership with the MakerLab. This post is part of our series on research at the lab, in addition to our initiatives in Education and Outreach. While the future applications of 3D printing technology continue to emerge, it is already apparent that 3D printing holds the ability to transform the way in which our society consumes products that organizations design for us to buy instead of making products for ourselves. During the spring semester, a dissertation research project utilized the Maker Lab to obtain unique insights about how modification of 3D printable product designs affects users’ sentiment of creating products, and how this sentiment of creation affects their likelihood of product adoption. Students who participated in this study were able to customize a digital design of a cell phone case to meet their unique preferences. As part of the study, participants were invited to the Maker Lab to 3D print their customized designs and receive their cases. Printing at the Maker Lab enabled students to experience the process of creating their own cell phone cases that they could keep and show to their friends. The students completed a brief post-print survey at the Maker Lab to measure the extent of their satisfaction with the product creation process as compared to the typical consumption process of buying a firm-designed product from a retailer. When asked to provide reasons why they did or did not like the experience, students reported comments such as “it was really cool to see it be created right before your eyes” and “I made it myself!”
For other students, the construction of physical models would have been difficult, if not impossible to build, such as Vincent Velasco’s futuristic scheme generated from a sound wave. The alteration between various expressive media – parametric software (Rhino and Grasshopper), 3D printing, followed by in-class critique, further revision, and additional prototype production, ultimately led to better resolved and crafted schemes. As a test bed for experimentation, the MakerLab enabled students to gain skills in rapid prototyping within the design process, and not only as final documentation, as is most usually the case.
 Stan Allen, “The Future that is Now” Places 3/12/12. http://places.designobserver.com/feature/architecture-school-the-future-that-is-now/32728/
 Beatrix Colomina, “Radical Pedagogies in Architectural Education,” The Architectural Review, 9/28/2012. http://www.architectural-review.com/essays/radical-pedagogies-in-architectural-education/8636066.article
 Digital fabrication has significant implications for global architectural projects. Buildings can be designed in one place and the digital files sent elsewhere to be fabricated on site – a method used to meet shortened construction schedules by Foster + Partners with the Beijing Airport for the 2008 Olympics.
The University of Southern California is testing a giant 3D printer that could be used to build a whole house in under 24 hours.
Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis has designed the giant robot that replaces construction workers with a nozzle on a gantry, this squirts out concrete and can quickly build a home according to a computer pattern. It is “basically scaling up 3D printing to the scale of building,” says Khoshnevis. The technology, known as Contour Crafting, could revolutionise the construction industry.
The affordable home?
Contour Crafting could slash the cost of home-owning, making it possible for millions of displaced people to get on the property ladder. It could even be used in disaster relief areas to build emergency and replacement housing. For example, after an event such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, which has displaced almost 600,000 people, Contour Crafting could be used to build replacement homes quickly.
As Khoshnevis points out, if you look around you pretty much everything is made automatically these days –
your shoes, your clothes, home appliances, your car. The only thing that is still built by hand are these buildings.
How does Contour Crafting work?
The Contour Crafting system is a robot that by automates age-old tools normally used by hand. These are wielded by a robotic gantry that builds a three-dimensional object.
Ultimately it would work like this,” says Brad Lemley from Discover Magazine. “On a cleared and leveled site, workers would lay down two rails a few feet further apart than the eventual building’s width and a computer-controlled contour crafter would take over from there. A gantry-type crane with a hanging nozzle and a components-placing arm would travel along the rails. The nozzle would spit out concrete in layers to create hollow walls, and then fill in the walls with additional concrete… humans would hang doors and insert windows.
This technology is like a rock that we have rolled to the top of a cliff, just one little push and the idea will roll along on its own.
- Khoshnevis told Discover Magazine
Professor Jeff Lowenstein (from the Organizational Behavior Group of the Department of Business Administration) recently used the MakerLab to fabricate a prototype of a LED lightbulb for use in class experiments this semester.
In the words of Professor Lowenstein: "The sudden insight, like turning on a light, depends on prior efforts to seek out the switch. In new research, we are examining a challenging but critical area of business insight, which is negotiating valuable agreements. Negotiators benefit for working together to solve problems, and yet negotiators often focus only on their own problems and consider few options. In seeking ways to advance creative problem solving, in our research we are considering the experience of being hands-on with the problem. The MakerLab is allowing us to to do that as we explore negotiating over, of course, lightbulbs!"
We look forward to more faculty using the Lab to enhance their research efforts!