Posts tagged with "Icon"

NASA hires Icon to 3D-print U.S. base on the Moon

December 1, 2022

Mankind may not physically be back on the Moon just yet, but the Moon Economy is already booming. Case in point: Axios reports that an Austin-based three-dimensional printing firm called Icon just landed a $57.2 million cash infusion from NASA for its Project Olympus, an endeavor to create 3D-printed lunar shelters.

Icon plans to have its Moon huts ready for NASA use by 2026, assuming that the Artemis mission schedule remains intact. If the Moon is, indeed, to become a human outpost, durable and lightweight lunar housing will be essential — a reality that Icon CEO Jason Ballard doesn’t seem to be taking lightly.

“We feel real weight and responsibility — we’re not just doing this for ourselves,” Ballard said, according to a report by Futurism, adding that “we’re giving humanity the capability to build on other worlds.”

He added, “The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world,” he added, “and that is going to be a pretty special achievement.”

While Icon is best-known for its work building Earthly structures, it’s been hoping to build in space for some time now. Project Olympus was first launched in 2020, and the company also appears to have its eye on one day constructing a 3D-printed Mars colony.

Rather than bring a bunch of Earthly junk to the Moon’s relatively pristine surface, Icon’s goal is to build the lunar dwellings out of actual lunar materials — Moon dust, broken rocks, and the like, says Futurism.

According to Ballard, learning to build from the Moon’s natural regolith ensures the viability of long-term human tenure on the Moon. (After all, it would inconvenient if Moon miners had to receive a payload from Earth every time they needed to build a new road.)

“If you tried to plan a lunar settlement or a moon base and you had to bring everything with you, every time you wanted to build a new thing it’s like another $100M,” Ballard told Payload. “But once you’ve got a system that can build almost anything—landing pads, roadways, habitats—and it uses local material, you are probably two or three orders of magnitude cheaper to build a permanent lunar presence than you would be in any other way that we can think of.”

Research contact: @futurism

3-D printed houses are sprouting near Austin as demand for homes grows

October 27, 2021

A major home builder is teaming with a Texas startup to create a community of 100 3-D printed homes near Austin—gearing up for what would be by far the biggest development of this type of housing in the United States, The Wall Street Journal reports exclusively.

Lennar  and construction-technology firm Icon are poised to start building next year at a site in the Austin metro area, the companies said. While Icon and others have built 3-D printed housing before, this effort will test the technology’s ability to churn out homes and generate buyer demand on a much larger scale.

“We’re sort of graduating from singles and dozens of homes to hundreds of homes,” said Jason Ballard, Icon’s co-founder and CEO.

If 3-D printing succeeds at this more ambitious level, it could offer a response to America’s chronic shortage of homes for sale, especially in the affordable price range. Mortgage-finance company Freddie Mac estimated that the national deficit of single-family homes stood at 3.8 million units at the end of 2020.

According to the Journal, supply-chain backlogs during the pandemic have pinched home construction, while labor shortages have hampered production for years.

“Skilled tradesmen are a dying breed,” said Eric Feder, president of LenX, Lennar’s venture-capital and innovation unit. “So there have to be alternative building solutions to help with this labor deficit.”

The vast majority of newly built single-family homes in the USA are constructed on-site—and are framed in wood using traditional construction methods.

Icon’s 3-D printed houses use concrete framing instead. Its 15.5-foot-tall printers can build the exterior and interior wall system for a 2,000-square-foot, one-story house in a week, Ballard said. The printer squeezes out concrete in layers, like toothpaste out of a tube. The machines can print curved walls, allowing for more creative house designs, he added.

Lennar will complete the houses using traditional construction methods. The week it takes Icon to print a wall system is about the same amount of time it takes to frame and drywall a home using traditional construction methods, but Lennar said it hopes it can speed up that process in the future. 3-D printed homes can also be built more cheaply, with fewer people on-site and less waste compared with typical newly built houses, Icon says.

Buyers shouldn’t necessarily count on a discount to the market’s going rate. Lennar hasn’t determined how the homes in the new community will be priced but they will be similar to other Lennar homes in the area, Mr. Feder said. The median home-sale price in the Austin metro area in September was $450,000, according to the Austin Board of Realtors.

Icon has already built ten two-bedroom homes in Tabasco, Mexico, and seven one-bedroom tiny homes in Austin. Earlier this year, Icon built four single-family homes in Austin with developer 3Strands. Icon has raised $266 million in funding since its 2017 founding. Lennar and home builder D.R. Horton are both investors.

Other firms also are rushing to print out homes. Mighty Buildings, a construction-technology company in Oakland, California, said it plans to start construction on 3-D printed homes for a 15-lot community in California’s Coachella Valley next year. Preliminary demand for the community has been so strong that Palari the developer, is planning to add more lots, said Palari CEO Basil Starr.

Patchogue, N.Y.-based SQ4D. is currently building a 3-D printed home on Long Island that it sold to a local family for $360,000, above the $299,999 list price, said Kristen Henry, the company’s chief technology officer.

“I think 2022 is going to be a year where we are going to see a renewed emphasis on innovation,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders. “Any productivity gain, any innovation, will help add that additional supply.”

Research contact: @WSJ