Contour Crafting is a mega-scale 3D Printing technology for fabrication of large-scale structures directly from computer models. Contour Crafting simultaneously uses computer controlled extrusion and troweling to achieve smooth and accurate free-form surfaces. This innovative process has been enabled by many unique technologies in robotics, material delivery, control systems, and intelligent software. The technology has been under development at USC during the last two decades. Various aspects of the technology have been patented in the US and internationally (over 100 patents to date). Contour Crafting Corporation was established in 2014 and in 2017 it received major funding from a European multi-national construction technology firm.
The large, all-weather robotics unit, which comprises the core of Contour Crafting product is lightweight and designed to be movable to and from construction sites. Pre-designed elements would be rapidly fabricated and implemented on-site with one or two operators. Depending on materials used, the result could be very sturdy and aesthetically appealing structures built quickly in layers using a proprietary robotic manipulator and material dispensing system.
In CC, computer control is used to take advantage of extrusion and the superior surface forming capability of troweling to create smooth and accurate, planar and free-form surfaces. CC is a hybrid method that combines an extrusion process for forming the object surfaces and a filling process (by pouring, or extrusion) to build the object core. Under support from NSF, NASA, ONR and several industries we have conducted extensive experiments over the last two decades to configure the CC process to produce a variety of small and full-scale objects. Small 2.5D and 3D parts with square, convex, and concave features have been fabricated from a variety of thermoplastic and ceramic materials. A limited axis but larger machine was later produced to demonstrate the possibility of fabricating full-scale concrete structures.