Additive Manufacturing Buildings as Promise for Households (by New Story and ICON partnership)

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Additive Manufacturing technology, also known as 3D printing, has been making impressive advancements in a number of industries from manufacturing, medicine, automotive and aerospace over last years. Nowadays, the construction industry has the potential benefits that 3D printing technology promises.This week at the South by Southwest Conference & Festivals, the start-up ICON and non-profit New Story revealed a 3D-printed house they built $10,000 using ICON’s Vulcan printer. They claim this is the first permitted and code compliant home in the U.S. built using 3D printing. As they further develop and test materials, they hope to bring the costs down to around $4,000 and could possibly cut the build time down to six hours.


The machine (ICON’s Vulcan printer) can print a 650-square-foot house onsite in 12 to 24 hours using a concrete mixture to build walls layer by layer, leaving openings for windows and doors to be installed once the concrete has set. The other parts (windows, roof, doors, plumbing and electrical are all installed once the printing is finished). The model they unveiled at SXSW will be used as an office and proof-of-concept as they work to refine their process. The partnership with New Story plan to build 100 homes in El Salvador next year to address their goal of providing housing solutions to underdeveloped communities around the world. 3D construction printing is still very much an emerging technology.

The majority Additive Manufacturing buildings that have been produced have been one-offs used to show the viability of the technologic project. Currently, there are only a handful of 3D printed buildings that have been built for daily use or occupancy. The two major challenges in perfecting 3D construction printing lie in the material and the machine. Regardless of whether you are printing onsite or offsite, the construction printer needs to be able to continuously and uniformly extrude each layer of the material.

Gantry-style printers and multi-axis autonomous machines are two of the more popular methods for creating 3D printers for construction. For onsite construction, they need to be easy to set up and take down once printing is completed and they need to be able to maneuver the construction site without an interruption in their printing.

The second major challenge is formulating the right mixture for the materials being printed. The material, in most cases some type of concrete mixture, needs to be strong enough or dry quickly enough to support the weight of each subsequent layer without falling over.

 3D printed buildings developers need to be ensure that the material will set and cure as expected in perfect conditions where the buildings are being printed. There’s also the question of

lifecycle of the building,

not to mention getting building codes changed to allow permits to be issued for construction.


Winsun, based in Shangai, has built some bus stop shelters and public restrooms in China. There’s also an office building in Dubai and a residence in Russia. 3D Printhuset completed their Building on Demand (BOD), a hotel office in Copenhagen, last year. The office was permitted built to meet the European Union’s strict building codes. The concrete mixture includes recycled tiles and sand to make the material more environmentally friendly. Watch video about Winsun 3D Buildings below:

The International Code Council (ICC) is working with America Makes and ANSI’s Additive Manufacturing Standardization Collaborative to develop a roadmap for standards and specifications for the use of 3D printing across a wide range of industries, where construction is included. This will hopefully lead to the ICC adopting building codes for 3D printed buildings.

  1. The 3D printing buildings’ includes reduce costs and shorter time construction than traditional methods.
  2. It also creates less waste. The use of bioplastics or concrete made with recycled materials could make the building materials more environmentally friendly.
  3.  Endless possibilities it opens up for the design and look of a building. Architects would only be limited by their own imagination when it comes to building design using 3D printing technology.
  4. The speed that 3D printers can build an entire structure makes it ideal for providing disaster relief housing.
  5. The low costs promised could be a major benefit to developers of affordable housing.

Some professionals are using 3D construction printing for space exploration using materials to build structures on the moon and Mars. Based on all the progress being made in the field of 3D construction printing, it appears that it will be a viable and marketable construction method in just a close future.

About ICON

ICON is one of a number of start-ups that have popped up in the last several years hoping to make 3D printed buildings a reality. Companies like Apis Cor, Branch Technology, CyBe, Cazza, XtreeE and 3D Printhuset, just to name a few, have all gotten into the 3D construction printing game.They join pioneers like Contour Crafting, D-Shape and DUS Architects along with a number of research institutions who have all been working for years to make 3D construction printing a viable option for the construction industry. More info about ICON.


New Story is a non-profit working to create a world where no human being lives in survival mode. More info about  New Story AM project.


Sources & More information
Sources mentioned in constructconnect- Powering Connections. Improving Results website, article:, visited 14th March 2018.
video credits:, visited on 14th March 2018.
Winsun videoNew Story + Icon- 3D Printed Homes for the developing world, visited on 14th March 2018
Logo upload from:, visited on 14th March 2018

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