3D printing keeps growing in performance, decreasing in cost and therefore expanding the fields of applications. A good example is the area of house printing. The first 3D printers for building constructions appeared, as commercial product in 2017, and could print a 40 square meter house for little more than 10,000$ (including the foundation).
Now ICON, an Austin, US, based company, has perfected their Vulcan II 3D printer and claims to be able to print a single house for about 4,000$ in just 24 hours. They are planning to start building houses in Salvador, Central America. Clearly these are not “fancy” houses, but will make for good homes to people that today have barely a shelter. The home is printed with specially designed concrete that can resist to rain and hurricane force wind.
In addition to creating a concrete that can be used by a 3D printer (it has to flow nicely but at the same time it needs to solidify quickly once it has been “printed” so that a new layer can immediately be deposited) ICON has created a whole ecosystem to make 3D printing feasible in areas that do not have the kind of infrastructures we are used to in developed world.
As an example the 3D printer can operate on 16kW of power (it can be generated on site, if needed), using just 1 litres of water per meter of printing (one layer) and can be operated in an easy way through a tablet. This means that the training of the operators is feasible, you don’t require a specialised engineer to operate the printer. The printer itself is moved from one location to the next by a specially constructed trailer.
The software on the tablet support an easy on site customisation to make the house fitting the specific environment. In addition, it can be updated from remote thus extending its capabilities over time.
The 3D printer can print a layer 2.5cm thick and 5cm wide at a speed of 15 cm per second. Each wall consists of two “faces”, each 5cm thick joined one another with a crisscrossing structure (see the clip) providing strength.
In a single day a home can be built, including windows, the door, and all the needed plumbing and trimmings.
This can be a game changer for 1 billion people living in poor shelters around the world.