Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis, the man behind Contour Crafting at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, wants to change the way structures are created.

Khoshnevis says Contour Crafting will one day be capable of laying down all the electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning systems needed for a building, and also be able to place electronic sensors to monitor the building's temperature and stability with a computerized construction method that 3D prints directly from architectural CAD models.

Professor Behrokh Khoshnevis

Now Contour Crafting has been awarded the grand prize of $20,000 in the 2014 Create the Future Design Contest.

Aimed at automating the construction of whole structures and radically reducing time and cost of construction, the process could lead to affordable building of high quality, low-income housing, the rapid construction of emergency shelters and on-demand housing in response to disasters.

"Bringing 3D printing to construction is bringing a concept to a proven application," Khoshnevis said. "For many years, building has been done in layers – concrete foundation blocks, brick laying, structural framing, etc. I am very happy to receive this award and find it to be very timely as I am in the process of fund raising and I think this recognition will help me greatly in furthering the project."

The Contour Crafting project was among 1,074 new product ideas submitted for the 12th annual design contest. The contest, established in 2002 to recognize and reward engineering innovations that benefit humanity, the environment, and the economy, was co-sponsored this year by COMSOL and Mouser Electronics. Analog Devices and Intel also provided additional sponsorship.

According to Bernt Nilsson, the Senior VP of Marketing at COMSOL, all the entrants provided innovative ideas.

"This year's contest really knocked it out of the park with a record number of entries and tons of truly forward-thinking product ideas," Nilsson said. "All these creative designs are a testament to the power of engineering innovation for building a better tomorrow. COMSOL is grateful for the opportunity to support the Create the Future Design Contest that does such a phenomenal job in promoting and recognizing simulation-driven product design."

Finalists were selected by senior editors at Tech Briefs Media Group, and the contest was judged by an independent panel of design engineers.

In addition to the grand prize of $20,000, first-place winners took home Hewlett-Packard workstations for their work in one of seven categories, Aerospace and Defense, Automotive and Transportation, Electronics, Machinery, Automation and Robotics, Medical and Sustainable Technologies.

"We'd like to congratulate this year's winners for their ingenuity, and commend all of the entrants for taking part in this exciting program that fosters technological innovation. As a distributor of leading technologies, 'Creating the Future' is very much at the heart of what we support here at Mouser, and we are excited to help design engineers and want to thank them for their important contributions," said Kevin Hess, Vice President of Technical Marketing at Mouser Electronics. "Engineers really deserve the credit for the amazing ingenuity we are seeing today in electronic design."