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Friday, August 29, 2008

The future of Printing in Construction

By Shaun Meany

I have always been interested in printing and copying (output technologies) and have been keeping a keen eye on the development of output devices since the early 1980’s. I guess now I am showing my age.

Photo Credit: USC Viterbi School of Engineering

Since my early years in business I have watched output technologies evolve from analog devices like the mimeograph machine, the electric typewriter, the 2-4 color offset printing press, and the thermal and electrophotographic (Xerox) copiers, to digital devices like: impact printers such as dot matrix and band printers, thermal, piezoelectric and continuous inkjet, digital-electrophotographic (i.e. laser/led) and now 3D rapid prototyping printers.

I was reading an article recently about a new printing technology that is taking 3D rapid prototyping technology to a whole new level. Apparently a scientist at Caterpillar, the world’s largest manufacturer of construction equipment, is starting to support research on “Contour Crafting,” an automated construction printing system that its creator believes will one day be able to build (print) full-scale houses in hours.

Basically, the system is a scaled-up version of the rapid prototyping machines now widely used in manufacturing and in some cases architecture to “print out” three-dimensional objects designed with CAD/CAM software, usually by building up successive layers of plastic. Instead of plastic, Contour Crafting will use concrete.

So if you think the future of the printing industry is at its twilight as some have suggested, you might want to take a step back and look at where printing is going into the future. And you had better hang on – it will be quite an exciting ride.

Source of this information can be located at: Caterpillar Inc. Funds USC 'Print-a-House' Construction Technology

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