Printing property

Clay Technology magazine
17 May 2018

A collaboration between a construction firm and non-profit organisation could see 3D-printed homes for developing countries.

In March 2018, the USA’s first 3D-printed house, which conforms to US housing standards, was unveiled in Austin. Measuring 35m2, the house took 48 hours to build and the printed portion cost around US$10,000.

The US companies behind the project – construction firm ICON and non-profit organisation New Story – aim to create 3D-printed homes designed for the developing world. The ultimate goal is to print single-storey houses of 55–75m2 in less than 24 hours, at a cost of US$4,000 per building. 

The 3D printer, named the Vulcan, is capable of working under conditions commonly experienced in developing countries, including limited water and power supply. It prints on site and doesn’t require assembly, as the home is printed as one structure. 

The roof, doors, and windows are added after the main structure is in place. 

It is a gantry-style printer on rails, and uses small-aggregate cementitious material. 

Jason Ballard, co-founder of ICON, commented, ‘With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero-waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability.’

The next step for the project is to improve the printer based on lessons learnt. 

Then, within the next 18 months, it will be moved to El Salvador – where New Story works to provide safe housing to those living in slums – to begin test printing.