While it was invented in the 1980s, 3D printing did not become mainstream until 2009 when the major patent expired. Since then, there has been a mad rush to see what can be 3D printed and just how big these objects can be. It seemed the only limit was the size of the printer, so surely things like cars and houses couldn’t possibly be options … could they?
As proof that we are living in a futuristic world, ICON has created the first 3D-printed, fully permitted house in the U.S. Built — ahem — printed in Austin, Texas, the home plans were downloaded to a massive printer that was able to complete construction in just 24 hours.
With several goals in mind, including affordability and sustainability, ICON partnered with nonprofit charity New Story to develop a mobile printer. Capable of printing a one-story home of up to 800 square feet, the homes generate almost no waste and cost a staggeringly low $4,000 to print.
The collaboration between the two companies came about from New Story’s desire to develop an entire community of 100 affordable homes in El Salvador. The goal is to replace slum housing in the poorest communities in the world with safe, sustainable housing. New Story also wanted the people who will be living in the homes to have a say in the design. By using 3D printing technology, home layouts can easily be changed to suit individual family’s needs before the plans are sent to the printer.
The printer, nicknamed Vulcan, uses a proprietary concrete blend that hardens as it prints. After a few days, the concrete becomes harder than cinder blocks. The home printed in Austin was designed to be up to all building codes, meaning it is move-in ready as soon as the finishing touches are installed. ICON plans to use local workers to install things like windows, doors, plumbing, and electrical, providing an economic boost to these poor communities.
While the prototype in Austin is the only one printed so far, crowdfunding efforts are underway and New Story is hoping to have the first village completed in 2019. With a lofty goal of housing the 1 billion people in the world without permanent homes, New Story knows they have their work cut out for them, but ICON’s 3D printer is going a long way to helping them achieve this dream.
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