We’ve been using 3D printers to create everything from novel trinkets to rapid design prototypes. But what about a house? One Texas company wants to make it possible to download and print a livable structure.
You could argue that 3D printers haven’t lived up to the hype. Delightful objets d’art with seemingly impossible structures are fun but trivial.
Sure, the medical community has had success using the technology to create artificial bones. And auto-industry designers use additive manufacturing techniques to rework the shape of a fender. But the notion of a 3D printer on every person’s desktop hasn’t quite panned out.
Icon, a startup based in Austin, hopes to reignite imagination around 3D printing by going bigger—much bigger. With a proprietary machine it calls Vulcan, Icon can generate entire homes. It erected its first prototype, a 350-square-foot home, in Austin in March.
The interior and exterior walls of the structure are composed of a series of stacked concrete layers. Icon says the result is stronger than cinder block—and crucially, far cheaper to build than one using conventional methods. Icon says it can create a single-story dwelling in 48 hours for $10,000 or less. A production version of Vulcan promises to more than halve the time and cost.
The company’s next step is to build dozens of homes in El Salvador, but the bigger business opportunity may lie closer to home. Cofounder Jason Ballard says he hopes to regularly build homes in the U.S. within 12 months. The projected price? About $125,000 for 1,500 square feet—less than half the national average.
Meet Icon, the company behind the first permitted 3D-printed home in the U.S.
The goal: Build a house with less cost, less waste, and in less time.
The first partner: New Story, a Y Combinator-backed nonprofit working in the developing world.
The dream: Build on Mars (paging Elon Musk). Icon is investigating how to 3D-print space habitats.