Building method for 3D-printed houses close to being perfected by non-profit org

3D printing is beginning to look like the next “miracle solution” to many of the world’s biggest problems. Recently, a non-profit organization called New Story tried using 3D printing in collaboration with construction tech company ICON, in order to build 3D-printed homes for people who were living in a developing country. By all accounts, their effort was a huge success. And it appears that there’s much more in store for them with regards to 3D printing and its construction-related applications.

Last month, a report from the business website that focused on New Story highlighted its latest innovation: A 3D-printed house that can be produced for just $4,000. The report states that New Story spent the last few years “rethinking how to build safe housing for those living in extreme poverty,” and after all the time they invested in research, came up with a workable solution that was based on 3D printing. (Related: Mainstream media finally realizing 3D printing could spur global revolutions.)

It is said that New Story was already working in the space, particularly as a facilitator of ways to quickly build low-cost housing in places such as Haiti and El Salvador, and they saw an opportunity to further improve the traditional home-building process. They found that conventional building practices simply couldn’t address the number of homes that were needed.

In line with this, the non-profit’s CEO, Brett Hagler, began a search for a solution. “We thought, what would it look like to have more of an exponential breakthrough for such a big challenge?” he asked. The answer was in 3D printers. Through this innovative manufacturing process, they found a way to achieve their three most important goals regarding building houses: To significantly reduce the cost of building, to make construction faster, and to improve the overall quality of the final home.

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Hagler admitted that they started out not knowing very much about 3D printing in general, and that they had their doubts about it as a basis for their projects. “We were very skeptical of the viability of this,” he said. “It took doing a lot of research and a lot of due diligence to figure out that it could actually solver for those three design questions.”

It is said that the 3D-printed house New Story is building could eventually cost as low as $3,500. And compared with houses that are built traditionally, which take between 13 and 20 days to be completed, the 3D-printed version only takes about 12-24 hours. And due to the fact that it’s mostly built through software, it’s possible to use different design options depending on whichever families are going to live in the houses. The ability to quickly change something, anything, with the design is a neat little bonus.

According to Jason Ballard, co-founder of ICON Technologies, their custom-build 3D printing solution really is the perfect fit for their needs. “The big difference, between a developed world and developing world context is you have a much more limited set of materials to work with,” he said. “Number one, just because of access, you want to restrict your material mix to things that you could find very ubiquitously around the globe. And you also want to avoid expensive materials.”

It will likely be a while before this uniquely innovative solution from New Story catches on, but it looks like it has the potential to be used in many places across the world. And with Hagler saying, “The big idea is to democratize the innovation to the rest of other non-profits and governments that are working on this issue,” that could be true sooner rather than later.

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