Company Plans to End Global Homelessness With 3D-Printed Homes

3D printer with a house model.

Icon, a construction tech company, 3D-printed its first home in Austin, Texas this past week in less than 24 hours. The prototype was unveiled at the SXSW conference and festival and will be the first of a community of 100 homes printed in El Salvador.

The 800-sq. foot, concrete home cost just $10,000, but the company says it plans to scale down the price to less than $4,000 –  a “quantum leap in affordability,” Icon co-founder, Jason Ballard said.

The company aims to create affordable housing for people living in impoverished nations. The software used in the technology is adaptable and able to create slight modifications to fit the needs of different sized families.

Icon’s Russian competitor, Apis Cor, 3D-printed a house of its own using a similar process, though it was significantly smaller at just over 400-sq. feet and with a price tag of $10,134. The company’s founder, Nikita Chen-yun-tai, said he envisions his 3D technology used to colonize Mars.

Icon’s printer was a prototype of the one it will use for production. The company says its printer will function using nearly zero waste methods and will meet most recognized standards of safety. The printers have an estimated lifespan of creating up to 1000 homes, though they haven’t fully tested this yet. The company says it can create homes ranging from 600 to 800-sq. feet.

Icon says its goal is to create safe, affordable housing, and eventually end global homelessness. The company is partnering with New Story, a non-profit that partners with tech companies to “create a world where no human being lives in survival mode.”

Icon’s 3D printer is easily transportable by a single truck and uses a mortar than can be found just about anywhere. The homes include two bedrooms, a kitchen, and a bathroom. They are built to be energy efficient and sturdy, providing much needed shelter for people living in homes made of inadequate materials, particularly in third world countries.

One obstacle the company faces is implementing its technology in urban areas with spatial constraints. The homes they are printing aren’t really modular and are more ideal in rural areas with open space. Though a future solution may already be in the works, with another company announcing its plans for the first 3D-printed skyscraper in Dubai.  The building will be 1,375 feet tall and scheduled for completion by 2020.

With the convenience and cost reduction of 3D printing technology, it’s not hard to imagine that one day all construction might become fully automated.

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