Updated: Feb 17, 2020
In December of 2019, an Austin-Based company broke ground in Tabasco, a state in Mexico, building the world's first 3D-printed community with a 33-foot printer.
Vulkan Erupts Concrete
Vulkan II, the printer, was made by ICON, an Austin-based construction technology company. ICON said it took an estimated three years of trial & error to create a printer that can handle this type of project. The idea to build homes in Mexico came from New Story, a nonprofit organization that helps families in need of housing.
These two nonprofit companies came together for one cause: to address the needs of their brothers & sisters south of the border.
So far, New Story has built over 2,700 homes in South America and Mexico since 2014. This is the first homebuilding project with 3D printing technology.
"These families are the most vulnerable, and in the lowest income. They're living on about an average of $3 a day," said Brett Hagler, CEO and co-founder of New Story
"They're living in literally a pieced-together shack that during the rainy season, it will rain and it will flood their shack. Some of the women even said that the water will go up to their knees when it rains, sometimes for months," Hagler told CNN
The Mayan World of Floods
Tabasco Mexico is an area known for sesmic activities (Earthquakes) and floods. In 2008, heavy rains on southeastern Mexico pushed rivers over their banks, leaving about 80% of the state of Tabasco under water.
The homes being built in Mexico were co-designed with input from the local families that will live in them. So not only will the homes be built with 3D-printing technology, but they will be practical, and addressing the needs of the people who will be living in them.
In March of 2018, New Story reported that it took an average of 48 hours to build a 3 bedroom, concrete family home in Mexico.
Vulcan II is capable of building two 500-square-foot houses at the same time. It can also build a 2,000-square-foot house in the same amount of time, according to ICON. The printer can build walls almost 9 feet high and 28 feet wide.
"It's 10 times better than we were a year ago. I am so proud," ICON CEO and co-founder Jason Ballard told CNN "It is so rare that the-most-in-need of our sisters and brothers globally get first access to advanced technologies and breakthroughs in materials science."
The co-founder stated that 3D printing is faster and cheaper than traditional construction. Although the houses are being built by a giant 3D-printer, they still employ and used skilled local labor for other aspects of building a house, such as electricians, plumbers, carpenters and more.
"We think part of what 3D printing allows us to do is to deliver a much higher-quality product to the housing market at a speed and price that's typically not available for people in low-income housing" Ballard said. "It is a house that anyone would be proud to live in."
"We have some of the brightest minds and we have the most promising technology in Silicon Valley working on elite problems. How can we rethink and reshape existing and budding technology toward these more pressing issues?" said Alexandria Lafci, New Story COO and co-founder.
Hagler, CEO and co-founder of New Story said "safe shelter is one of the largest crises affecting humanity today." The overall goal is to build 50 new houses by the end of 2020, replacing the homes that residents built themselves with wood, metal and whatever materials they could find or afford.
“Our private group of donors, who we call The Builders, invest directly into our operational and R&D expenses. This allows us to take calculated risks, like a 3D printer, without diluting our promise to general donors.” Brett Hagler, CEO, New Story, said, imparting a little secret, but our lips are sealed.
About 1.6 billion people in the world don't have adequate housing, according to a 2015 Habitat for Humanity study.