When you mention evolution some might think of apes, or whales with little limbs looking sad, drawn across the page of your old science book. Or you might think of the Internet and get sidetracked into the thought process of how in the heck you survived without Google or a handheld database of everything you could ever need (or want to know). I bet if we played a word association game, you’d have to get pretty far down the list before “evolution” led to a light bulb that correlated with the word “printer.” But, given a closer look, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to disagree –– printers have come a long way, baby.
Mixed in amongst homo sapiens, they’ve evolved. I mean, printers came blazing into the lives of writers and readers alike with the invention of the printing press. At the time, that was Jetsons-like stuff. In reality, ink still had to be applied to text-blocks manually. Then came the steam printer, followed later by photocopiers, laser printers and inkjet printers. As the machines have evolved, so has their usage. I mean, remember the days when what we used printers most for was printing out MapQuest directions to be stapled and promptly laid in our laps or on the passenger seat for our in-car journeys? Nowadays, printers are being used for…houses. No, that’s not a typo. We’ve reached the point as a society where we can press “send to printer” and pop out something that’s worth living in long-term. Okay, it’s not that simple…but also, it’s not too far off.
The list of companies exploring this notion of a printed piece to call home is not small, but the one I was drawn to read more about is New Story, a nonprofit that is working diligently to create safe housing opportunities in areas plagued by extreme poverty. In short, their company says they “pioneer solutions to address global homelessness and imagine a world where no human lives in survival mode.”
For these fearless change-makers, that mission currently means building the world’s first 3d printed community. On their website, they detail that their goal is to print homes in their target community of El Salvador throughout 2018 and leave a finished community of homes behind in 2019. After that, their mission will shift ever-so-slightly in order to democratize the technology and spread the knowledge and capabilities to other non-profits and governments in need, on a larger, worldwide scale. Of course, the hefty goal does not come without a huge price. In the past months, the company has been intensely seeking $600k in funding for the next phase of research and development along with $400k of pre-funding for the first community of printed homes to ever exist (for families in need).
With a monumental end goal in their plans, it’s no surprise that the firm is not acting alone. New Story has partnered with ICON, a construction technologies company. ICON’s investment in the same mission is apparent after one glance at their website, which boldly asks this question on the home page: “What if you could download and print a home in 24 hours for half the cost?”
The teams, working together, have created the holy grail of 3D printers, called the Vulcan. While both organizations have deep roots in making homebuilding more efficient, New Story says that even after great success rebuilding houses quickly after natural disasters and on tight budgets, they still felt that efficiency and the capacity of work was lacking. A lot of head scratching, discarded ideas, and lofty goal-setting later, they found themselves at the conclusion of 3D printing.
Now, the foundation has been set –– the concept of a humble 3D abode has materialized in Austin, TX, where the teams have brought a prototype to life. The house offers the necessities in 650 square feet, including a living room, small bedroom, one bedroom, and one bathroom. The affordable housing sample was printed, one layer at a time, with finishing touches such as plumbing and windows being added after the fact by human workers. Eventually, homes like this will be able to be built, one right after the next, for just $4,000, coming together in less than 24 hours.
While El Salvador and other struggling communities are taking precedent, made clear by ICON and New Story’s determination to take on global homelessness, the companies could be bringing their technology to US markets soon as well. According to Fortune, Jason Ballard, the founder of ICON, has alluded that the company will also be turning out 3D printed homes in the US in less than 12 months. According to Ballard, the homes would cost about $125,000 for 1500 square feet –– halving the nation’s average.
*Send to printer*
Learn more about what New Story and ICON are doing here.