Texas-based construction 3D printing company ICON has once again upgraded its Vulcan system. The next-gen 3D printer was announced in parallel to a new 3D printed home initiative—the Exploration Series—which ICON is working on in collaboration with various world-class architects. We’ve got our first glimpse of the inaugural build of the series, House Zero, which is designed by Texas firm Lake|Flato Architects.
The goal of ICON’s newly launched Exploration Series is to work with architects to create new design languages and architectural vernaculars informed by the possibilities of construction 3D printing. In other words, to make the most out of the design freedom that 3D printing affords.
The first house in the series, House Zero was specifically designed for 3D printing and integrates many unique features, including an energy efficient design and elevated structure. The house, which is now under construction in East Austin, will comprise a 2,000+ square foot 3 bedroom/2.5 bathroom dwelling, along with a 350 sq-ft 1 bedroom/1 bath unit—or guest house. The house’s design draws from regional styles, specifically modernist ranch house aesthetics, with the added technological flair of 3D printing.
“This is the moment when people around the world will see more of the architectural design freedom and benefits of a 3D printed house and believe that they too would want to live in a 3D printed house,” said Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON. “If people fall in love with what we’re doing here, it turns out the Vulcan is the only construction system in the world capable of delivering this home and others like it. We are hopeful this catalyzes widespread enthusiasm and excitement for the future of construction and architecture. We’re getting ready to stand up manufacturing in our new facilities and begin larger scale projects in anticipation of such a response.”
Ashley Heeren, Associate at Lake|Flato, added: “House Zero has allowed Lake|Flato to develop our ethos of human and nature-centric design with an entirely new framework. It’s been a thrill for our team to design this home of the future and explore new ways to create high-performance shelter that celebrates craftsmanship, seeks increased efficiency and eliminates steps in the construction process. This welcoming, practical home design expands the performance capabilities of 3D printing technology and is unlike any other home we’ve designed to date.”
The new build is enabled by ICON’s proprietary Vulcan 3D printer, the latest generation of which is 1.5 times larger and 2x faster than the company’s previous systems. The robotic 3D printer, which weights 9,500 lbs and integrates an automated control system, has the capability to 3D print homes spanning up to 3,000 square feet. ICON has developed its Vulcan technology for the purpose of producing single-story homes more efficiently and economically.
ICON has had a prolific few years: it raised $9 million in seed funding in 2018, another $35 million in 2020, and has produced two dozen 3D printed homes and structures for the American and Mexican markets. Notably, it put its first 3D printed homes on the mainstream housing market in early 2021 in collaboration with developer 3Strands. One of the company’s main goals, however, is to use its technology to offer social housing as well as housing for disaster stricken regions. Like many others in the construction AM space, ICON also has ambitious to go beyond Earth, and is continually exploring the possibility of producing habitats on the Moon and Mars in cooperation with NASA.