The construction company ICON is working together with the charity New Story to combat inadequate housing across the globe. Using ICON’s Vulcan 3D printer, the collaborative effort aims to 3D print 650-square-foot homes that are affordable and sustainable.
With 3D printing emerging throughout the construction industry, the technology is becoming a groundbreaking production tool for affordable and sustainable housing. The latest organization to adopt 3D printing into its humanitarian efforts is New Story. The charity’s mission is to place people without adequate housing into a proper shelter, taking them away from the throes of “survival mode”.
The non-profit organization is now working with ICON, an Austin, Texas-based construction tech company. ICON has unveiled the Vulcan 3D printer at SXSW Festival, a manufacturing solution that could eventually provide homeless or struggling families with a roof over their heads.
Together, ICON and New Story are 3D printing homes using a cement mixture. Each structure takes around 12 to 24 hours to produce. The 650-square-foot single story homes have a modern design.
The current plan is to build 100 homes in El Salvador next year. According to Alexandria Lafci, co-founder of New Story, the charity has also been 3D printing homes for communities in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia.
However, before these homes are built, ICON is planning to trial the model by 3D printing an office in Austin. Within the office, the construction tech company plans to install air quality monitors and keep an eye on how the 3D printed structure looks and smells.
New Story and ICON Attempt to 3D Print Sustainable Homes for $4,000
New Story explains on its website that last year, the technology they needed to create homes quickly and cheaply wasn’t available yet. However, by working alongside ICON, they now have access to the impressive Vulcan 3D printer.
Currently, it costs $10,000 to 3D print a home with the Vulcan 3D printer. Eventually, ICON hopes to reduce this construction cost to just $4,000.
“There are a few other companies that have printed homes and structures. But they are printed in a warehouse, or they look like Yoda huts. For this venture to succeed, they have to be the best houses… I think if we were printing in plastic we would encounter some issues,” explains co-founder of ICON, Jason Ballard.
Since these structures need to be sturdy and hospitable, the companies aren’t taking any risks and will be refining the process right up until they take it over to El Salvador. If all goes according to plan, we may soon see the Vulcan 3D printing homes in the United States as well.
As we’ve seen in cases both inside and outside of the construction sector, 3D printing offers many benefits other than just being very quick. The technology also tends to reduce waste and manual labor costs.
After solving the vast housing and homelessness problems that plague the Earth, Ballard hopes to use 3D printing to help humans build homes in outer space. He explains: “One of the big challenges is how are we going to create habitats in space… You’re not going to open a two by four and open screws. It’s one of the more promising potential habitat technologies.”
In the meantime, if you’d like to join the effort to eliminate homelessness on Planet Earth, you can donate to the cause on the New Story website.
Human’s next destination is Mars. And the next giant leap for mankind is building a sustainable habitat on the red planet.
Behrokh Khoshnevis, professor at the University of Southern California has been reportedly working with NASA on the possibility of building a colony on Mars since 2011. And it’s going to be 3D-printed.
He created a 3D-printing method called Contour Crafting (CC), which made it possible to print a 2,500-square-foot building in less than a day on Earth. In conversation with CNN, he said, “Taking 1 kilogram of material from Earth to the moon would cost hundreds of thousands dollars. It was clear to me that these ideas were not economically viable.”
He stated that as the environment on Mars is hostile to humans, robots will be playing a major role in setting up a colony on Mars. It is predicted that robots will have to construct power grids, construction plants, landing pads and roads, all before humans even set foot.
Once Khoshnevis’ 3D-printer is rocketed to space, it will have to work independently, or be controlled remotely from Earth. He said, “Building in space is going to become commonplace in less than 50 years. There’s an abundance of energy and materials [and] in a short time, our capability to manufacture in space will be many times what we can do on Earth.”
Though there are no confirmed designs on how these 3D-printed buildings will look like. It is believed that the plans might look like something of sci-fi fiction. Khoshnevis says, “It’s hard to imagine what we will have 100 years from now, or 50 years from now. But I have full confidence that we will conquer Mars and this solar system, and even beyond.”
Probably the story we receive the most emails about and residual traffic from is the one we did about a Chinese company called Winsun. Winsun made major headlines twice over the last year alone, despite the fact that there is very little public information available about the company themselves. The first story broke in April of last year when they allegedly ‘3D printed’ 10 houses in a single day. Initially we wrote it off as an April Fools prank, as the news was in fact released on April 1st. Immediately upon hearing this story we became a bit skeptical. 10 houses in a day? Is that even possible? Once again there really wasn’t a whole lot of information online from the company about this process, and when we reached out for further evidence, they simply ignored our correspondence. Despite this, other media outlets ran with the story and the company never blinked an eye.
It was a couple of months ago when I personally had the opportunity to interview Dr. Berok Khoshnevis, a man many would call the Grandfather of House Printing. He is the inventor of a process of 3D printing large structures called Coutour Crafting, and according to an interview he conducted with us plans to begin selling his machines within a year or two to construction companies around the world. Dr. Khoshnevis is a genius when it comes to both construction and 3D printing, at least as far as we are concerned. It was in our conversations with him that we realized what’s likely the truth behind Winsun, a company that Dr. Khoshnevis, as well as his former student Dr. Jing Zhang, is unfortunately all too familiar with.
Dr. Berok Khoshnevis
In the interview we published with Dr. Khoshnevis back in March, he explained to us that Winsun has made several false claims and, even worse, stole his intellectual property. After we heard this we decided to dive a bit deeper into these allegations, contacting Dr. Khoshnevis’ student at the time Dr. Jing Zhang for his side of the story, recontacting Dr. Khoshnevis, and reaching out, unsuccessfully, to Winsun themselves.
Dr. Jing Zhang, who has worked extensively with Dr. Khoshnevis on his Contour Crafting technology, currently runs his own company, SprintRay, which produces SLA 3D printers for consumers and small businesses. Dr. Zhang is also in line to head up the Chinese branch of Contour Crafting once launched at a later date.
“Winsun’s CEO came to LA, saw our work, then invited me to his company, brought his materials and asked me to demonstrate the consistency needed for his material to work with Contour Crafting,” Dr. Khoshnevis informed 3DPrint.com. “Copying the idea is one wrong action but another wrong action was for him to claim in the media that he had the idea before me, when there is no evidence, official or unofficial, showing that this man ever did anything in 3D Printing of concrete (or any 3D printing) prior to 2014.”
How Khosnevis will construct large multi-story buildings
In fact, Dr. Zhang informed us that Mr. Ma from Winsun actually had no idea about the capabilities of 3D printing until Zhang himself walked him through an Expo featuring the technology, in 2013:
“Prof. Khoshnevis gave my information to Mr. Ma and asked him to contact me when he came back to China,” Dr. Zhang explained to us. “I received a call from him around March or April. He told me that he was seeking an opportunity to work with Khoshnevis and hoped that I could connect the two of them (he couldn’t speak English). I went to Shanghai and met with him several times. In May 2013, I went to Beijing for the first 3D Printing Expo in China [Which Ma was also attending]. At that time, he had NO idea what 3D printing was at all. I walked him through the expo and spent a couple hours giving him some basic knowledge about 3D printing. He was very excited about it. Mr. Ma tried to persuade me to build a prototype of the [Countour Crafting] machine for him. I told him that I could only do that with Prof. Khoshnevis’ permission because he is the inventor of the technology. I also told him to have a meeting with Prof. Khoshnevis if he wants further cooperation.”
Obviously Dr. Khoshnevis did not give this permission to Winsun, but agreed to fly out to China and meet with Ma himself in August 2013. Ma, Dr. Khoshnevis, and Dr. Zhang all met to discuss possible cooperation. According to Dr. Zhang, Dr. Khoshnevis showed Ma some of his technology and how it worked. At this point Ma had promised to show the men a new method for pumping concrete which was taking place at Winsun’s factory. Later, however, excuses were made, with Ma telling the men that since they are foreign they were not permitted inside the facility according to company rules. At the end of the meeting Dr. Khoshnevis refused any sort of cooperation agreement, at which point Ma proposed one final joint venture offer, stating, according to Dr. Zhang, “I am going to build it or fake it anyway.”
The so-called ‘3D printed apartment building’ by Winsun
Needless to say, no such partnership was ever formed, but Ma seems to be making good on his promise to Dr. Khoshnevis of faking it.
“I am surprised that so many individuals in the media have fallen into his story that he is the creator of 3D construction printing technology, with 12 years 3D printing experience, when instead he bought his very first MakerBot FDM machine in May 2013 (with me),” Dr. Zhang told us.
The sophisticated extrusion technology being used by Contour Crafting
Basically what Winsun is allegedly doing is using technology and ideas which Ma was able to learn about from Dr. Khoshnevis’ visit to China. They are allegedly using these patented techniques in order to create their own subpar system. They aren’t 3D printing homes or apartment buildings. Instead they are printing small sections of walls, within their own facility using a very expensive 5-axis gantry system from Italy, which they then simply fit with a concrete pump. The extremely heavy walls then need to be loaded onto a truck, transported to a building site, and then offloaded and constructed. According to both Dr. Zhang and Dr. Khoshnevis, this technology, which doesn’t have a single patent backing it, is neither efficient nor revolutionary, and instead is much more expensive and inefficient than current manufacturing techniques.
As Dr. Khoshnevis continues his tireless work on rolling out his very own Contour Crafting platform within the next two years, and Dr. Zhang continues building upon his very own company, SprintRay (they intend to launch a Kickstarter campaign here very soon), Ma will likely continue to try to deceive the media in an attempt to perhaps garner investments and attention from a technology he had absolutely no experience working with just 23 months prior.