Behrokh Khoshnevis is a professor of Industrial & Systems Engineering, and Civil & Environmental Engineering, and is the Director of the Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) and Director of Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at USC. His work in the automation of building construction can be compared to “the Wright Brother’s 12-second f light for aviation”. I was lucky enough to get Dr. Khoshnevis to take a few minutes out of his busy schedule to do this quick interview.
Interview by Stephen Thompson, Ph.D.
Welcome to OpenBeast. Tell us about yourself?
I am one who did not let school interfere with his education. I have explored many fields and take interest in everything. I rarely get bored because everything amuses me, even small gravel. I am passionate about thinking creatively and I like to find simple and practical solutions to difficult problems. I have invented in several diverse fields and from each experience I have learned a bit more about science, technology, economics, business and human behavior. When people ask me what my specialization is I often have a hard time giving a straight answer, because I really do not know if I have any.
Talk to us about your automated construction invention, Contour Crafting.
I have taken keen interest in fabrication because I think it has been the main force behind the progress of civilization. I have invented a few fabrication methods and Contour Crafting is one of them. CC was not originally intended for buildings. It was just a way of rapidly building large scale industrial objects directly from computer models. It was a 3D Printing approach that could print with very thick layers yet maintain smooth surfaces. Trying different materials eventually got me to testing concrete and that is when I was convinced that the best use of the technology must be in building construction.
What is Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) all about?
The overarching vision for CRAFT is to develop the science and engineering needed for rapid automated fabrication of objects of various sizes up to mega-scale structures such as, boats, industrial objects, public art and whole building structures. The grand challenge for CRAFT is building a custom-designed house in a day while drastically reducing the costs, injuries, waste and environmental impact associated with traditional construction techniques. The vision is a revolution in housing construction, whether it be to provide affordable housing for the 30 million U.S. households facing cost burdens or overcrowding; emergency housing for victims of disasters; extraterrestrial buildings constructed from in situ materials; new styles of housing based on curved organic designs rather than straight surfaces; or inexpensive first ownership housing for an emerging middle class in the developing world. With national construction-related expenditures currently totaling close to $1 trillion annually, the potential impact is enormous.
Describe your experience with History Channel’s Modern Marvels program.
There was a competition called “Invent Now”. I applied along with about 5000 others. Twenty five top inventions were chosen and mine was one.
So what’s next for CRAFT?
We have exciting funded projects for building construction on earth and on other planets. We won two prestigious NASA competitions and received funding from the agency to develop, test and demonstrate our proposed concepts. We also have projects for special applications of the CC technology. These keep me and my team fairly busy.
What are your leisure time activities?
I read, paint, play volleyball and most importantly enjoy walking around aimlessly and welcoming creative thoughts. I also practice silencing my mind and just observing the existence and its boundless wonders.