3D Printer Can Create Complete Home in One Day

28 March, 2018

An American company says it has completed the first permitted 3D printed home in the United States.

The home was shown to reporters and visitors at the South by Southwest technology conference and music festival. The event took place earlier this month in Austin, Texas.

Building company ICON has developed large 3D printers that build homes with mortar, a hard and strong material. ICON uses robotics, computer software programs and advanced materials to make houses.

Jason Ballard is the company's co-founder.

"So I'm standing in front of the first permitted 3D-printed home in America. This house was actually printed in high winds, blowing dust and rain."

It is important for the printing process to operate in extreme conditions, such as weather disasters. The goal is to print homes in developing countries.

An artist's image simulates a production that could be set up to use 3D printing technology to build inexpensive homes. (ICON/New Story)
An artist's image simulates a production that could be set up to use 3D printing technology to build inexpensive homes. (ICON/New Story)

ICON's 3-D printer is made of lightweight aluminum, and measures 4.5-meters tall by 9 meters wide. The homes are printed on-site, so the equipment has to be light enough to move from one property to the next.

Ballard imagines that someday, many 3-D printers will operate around the world to make homes. "It's actually a lot more simple to build a printer than it is to build a house," he said.

"We ran this printer at about a quarter speed to print this house, and we were able to complete the house in less than 48 hours of print time."

Ballard says that at full speed, the printing process could take as little as 12 hours.

ICON has teamed up with a not-for-profit group called New Story. Together, they are attempting to help provide a quick, cheap housing solution for the millions of people who need it most.

Brett Hagler is founder and chief executive officer of New Story.

"The magnitude of the problem that we face is so big, it's about a billion people that don't have one of life's most basic human needs, and that's safe shelter."

Hagler says his organization already works on housing needs with poor families in different areas. But he says that to really make a difference, the program will need to greatly expand.

He added that since the 3D printing process is so much faster than traditional homebuilding, a whole community could be built in just a few months.

"That has to come through significantly decreasing cost, increasing speed, while doing that without sacrificing quality."

Hagler notes that a 3D printed home costs a lot less than a traditional home.

"Traditional style, one of New Story's homes, is about $6,500 per home, right. We believe over time, we can get the new home below $4,000."

The goal is to bring the new building technology to the world's poorest and underserved first.

New Story is currently working with local nonprofits, governments and families to help raise money. It plans to start 3D printing homes in El Salvador later this year.

I'm Bryan Lynn.

Elizabeth Lee reported this story for VOA News. Bryan Lynn adapted it for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

mortar n. a mixture of substances used between bricks or stones to keep them together

on-site adj. place where an activity happens

cheap adj. costing less than other things

magnitude n. the size or importance of something

3Dadj. something having height, width and depth

printv. to make a copy or reproduce something

festival n. a special time; a series of performances

advancedadj. involving high technology or modern

quarter – adj. divided in four equal parts; one-forth