Home News Look inside only large-scale 3D printed housing development in U.S.

Look inside only large-scale 3D printed housing development in U.S.

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It looks more like a NASA project than a housing construction site.

Just outside Austin, Texas, a giant machine is milking 100 three- and four-bedroom homes, the first major home development to be 3D printed on site.

Lennar, one of the largest homebuilders in the US, is partnering with 3D printing company ICON to develop projects. Lennar said he was an early investor in ICON, which has printed about a dozen homes in Texas and Mexico. These homes are expected to hit the market in the mid-$400,000 range in 2023.

“This is the first 100 homes, but we are excited to roll this out at scale,” said Stuart Miller, executive chairman of Lennar. says Mr.

ICON claims that an entire residential wall system, including mechanical, electrical, and plumbing, can be built two to three times faster than traditional homes and at up to 30% less cost.

ICON co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard said:

The printer is designed to run 24 hours a day, but is not due to area noise limitations. Almost fully automated, each household has only three of his workers. One monitors the process on her laptop, the other checks the concrete mix that needs to be adapted to the current weather conditions. Another task is to help by misting the area with water or adding new materials to the system.

“The promise of robotic construction is the promise of automation, reducing labor and therefore labor costs,” said Ballard.

Ballard added that ICON aims to reduce the number of operators to two over the next 12 months. Ultimately, he wants even fewer operators. “I think a kind of holy grail is where one person can monitor 12 systems, and where one person has to monitor 12 systems,” said Ballard.

Main squeeze

An ICON 3D printer installed in a housing complex in Georgetown, Texas.

Diana Orrick | CNBC

How it works is that a digital floor plan is loaded into a software system called Build OS, ready for robotic construction. Automatically map structural reinforcements and place electrical and plumbing outlets while printing. The printer then squeezes out its own concrete mixture, much like toothpaste, row by row, slowly building up the structure.

Other companies, such as California-based Mighty Buildings, also use 3D printing technology, but print the house in a factory before moving it to the job site. ICON brings the factory to the scene.

“This project has increased the total number of units by 400%, and we expect it to at least double over the next three to five years,” says Ballard. He said he already has plans to work with other big builders. DR Horton is one of ICON’s early investors.

Lennar’s Miller said his main focus is bringing more affordable housing to the market and sees this as one way to do that. But he also knows it’s still early days.

“This is all about innovation. As I travel around the country and talk to officials at the local and state level, the single biggest question is how do we provide housing for employees, affordable housing? I mean,” he said.

Lennar began planning the project with ICON when the housing market was still very enthusiastic. This was driven by strong demand and record low mortgage rates. Mortgage rates are now more than double what he was at the beginning of the year, and demand has plummeted, suggesting the project could add risk.

“We are still focused on our core business, keeping trains running on time and building homes all over the country. We are adjusting our business as the market cycles up and down,” Miller said. says. “Innovation is a cycle, it’s an aspect of our business because when we look to the future, we know there is a housing shortage there.”

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