3D-printing technology is becoming increasingly popular in the housing market, ever since ICON built the first permitted 3D-printed home in the U.S. in 2018. Lately known for its contribution to NASA’s Mars habitat, Texas-based printing leader ICON is looking to revolutionize the real estate market with its newly-developed 3D printer, the Vulcan II. This 11.5-foot printer and the material it uses for construction were researched and created specifically for implementation on buildings, with the aim of addressing the supply issue that is behind the current housing crisis.

The first four publicly available 3D-printed houses recently went up for sale in Austin, Texas, and unlike previous testing models, these actually look great. Looks aren’t all these new houses boast, though: ICON promises their 3D-printing results in higher energy efficiency, resilience, and affordability, with less construction waste and more flexibility in regards to design. In addition to these homes for the general public, ICON has worked on community projects for the chronically homeless and stated its desire to provide housing for disaster relief in the future.


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ICON says the primary advantages of 3D-printed houses lie in reduced construction time and costs. Even the first house they printed was completed in a single day and with more experience, they hope to speed up the process even more. This is achievable because the printing machines that build these houses do the jobs of 10-20 workers across several professions and can keep running all day without a break. While this removes a number of jobs from the market, it cuts down on costs and, therefore, on the final price of each home.

The Construction Of The Future

The material ICON uses for construction is a cement-based mix, which the 3D printer applies in one-inch-thick layers stacked on top of each other. The company claims this creates a stronger structure than any traditional building material is capable of making, and that buildings made this way can even be trusted to withstand natural disasters, up to a point. If proven true, this would be huge for disaster-prone areas from hurricanes to earthquakes. At the same time, the material boasts improved temperature control, increasing its energy efficiency.

From increased durability to better affordability and — with the Vulcan’s completely digital user manual and controls — lower environmental impact, ICON aims to help remedy the housing crisis and bring cheap but high-quality homes to people across the U.S. Currently, the creation of one house runs around $10,000, and ICON hopes to bring the cost for future homeowners down to $4,000 or less. If its 5-year goal to build thousands of homes per year is met, this may mark the end of the ongoing housing crisis and establish 3D printing as a reliable method for future architecture.