ICON, an Austin, Texas startup known for its low-cost construction 3D printing technology, has introduced the next generation of its 3D printer, the Vulcan II. The machine is the company’s first commercial construction 3D printer and will begin shipping next month. ICON is also taking orders for the Vulcan II for 2020.
Last year, ICON grabbed the attention of media platforms all over the world for a house it 3D printed in 24 hours and which cost just $4,000 to make. The house, which was unveiled in March 2018, was the result of a collaboration with non-profit organization New Story and promised the world that affordable, rapidly deployed housing could soon become a reality.
Following the demonstration of the house, ICON received an investment of $9 million, raised through a seed round led by Oakhouse Partners. This investment has enabled the company to push its construction 3D printing technology forward.
Now, we have our first glimpses of the fruits of this labour with the unveiling of the Vulcan II—a follow-up to the company’s first Vulcan 3D printer. The new machine, which ICON says is “the first of its kind,” is capable of 3D printing liveable homes, offering “resilient, dignified housing around the world.”
The new 3D printer has a build capacity spanning 8.5 ft in height and 28 ft in width (the print length is apparently infinite). The machine also boasts a rapid deposition rate of between five and seven inches per second. In terms of build materials, the 3D printer is exclusively compatible with ICON’s proprietary Lavacrete, a material made from Portland Cement which demonstrates a compressive strength of 6,000 psi when printed, resiliency and high thermal mass.
Adding to the Vulcan II’s accessibility is the fact that it only requires a small team to be operated (four to six people) and does not require much expertise, just basic training. This is thanks to improvements in automation, mechatronics and new specialized software tools.
The gantry-based 3D printer is operated using an integrated tablet-based operating system that enables the users to intuitively and easily monitor and control the machine. The 3D printer also comes with ICON Studio, a CAD and print planning platform capable of converting floor plans into printable structures, as well as a suite of sensors that enable fast, reliable and precise printing.
World’s first 3D printed community underway
Excitingly, ICON has also announced the launch of a new construction project in collaboration with New Story. The initiative will consist of building the world’s first 3D printed community in Latin America.
The 3D printed community, to be built using the Vulcan II system, is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will house over 400 people. The homes will serve low-income families that currently do not have adequate housing situations.
“The home recipients are hardworking families—many who are supported as brick makers as their occupation,” the company writes. “This is often compared to modern-day slavery as the physical labor is extremely taxing, they work very long hours, and pay next to nothing. The average family in the community is four individuals who are living on less than $200 per month. Families are being involved in the home and community design process by speaking into the designs before construction begins.”