In the near future, building a new home may be as easy as printing out an airline boarding pass.
New Story (a charity that works to build houses for people in developing nations) and Icon (a robotics construction company in Austin, Texas) unveiled what is believed to be the first 3D-printed house that is fully up to code and permitted for people to live in using a Vulcan printer.
The two organizations came together to show that it’s feasibly possible to build an easy-to-replicate house in less than 24 hours. They plan to start producing small houses for families in countries like Haiti and El Salvador. The 800-sq-ft house cost around $10,000 to build but the company plans to eventually bring that price down to around $4,000. It could soon print one of the houses in about six hours, but the process is still being ironed out.
The Vulcan printer was on display, in the yard next to the lot where a house was printed. Massive, but still portable, the printer excretes a custom blend of concrete that hardens as it is printed. The concrete is laid in 100 roughly 1” thick strands that hold their shape as they harden. Icon co-founder Evan Loomis said that the strength of the printed walls is stronger than cinderblocks after a few days of hardening, yet the houses are entirely habitable.
After the walls are printed, New Story crew members come in and install windows, a wooden roof, basic plumbing, and electrical wiring. The entire setup, including the finishing, takes under a day.
In the future, Icon would like to be able to develop robots that could automatically install the windows and drones that could spray-paint the exterior walls, after the Vulcan finishes printing. It will explore the possibility of printing roofs as well, but the technology for suspending concrete as it prints isn’t really feasible yet.
There are other groups working on printing houses, including Apis Cor in Russia, but the group in Austin believes its structure to be the first printed house that has been deemed inhabitable by a local government. Icon hopes to eventually commercialize its house-printing technology in the US, where housing shortages are reaching severe levels in some larger cities. “Affordability is important,” Loomis said, “regardless of whether you’re in Austin or El Salvador.”
In theory, families could customize the design, arrange for a printer to come plop down on their land, and have a readymade house to move into a day later. Even the average Amazon delivery takes longer than that.
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