The homes' walls can be printed in a week.

3D Printing Suburb

A Texas startup wants to build a community of a hundred 3D printed homes — which would make it the largest such community in the US. 

Icon, a startup that 3D prints buildings, is working with Florida-based construction company Lennar Corp to build the houses near Austin in 2022, according to The Wall Street Journal. The partners hope to use Icon’s 3D printing technology to sidestep the supply chain issues and labor shortages that are currently stifling the US housing market

"Skilled tradesmen are a dying breed," Eric Feder, president of Lennar’s innovation and venture-capital investing unit, told the WSJ. "So there have to be alternative building solutions to help with this labor deficit."

Icon has already built ten 3D printed two-bedroom houses in Mexico, along with seven one-bedroom homes in Austin. With this partnership with Lennar, it now hopes to scale their operations up to a whole new level.

Printing Walls

While most traditionally constructed homes utilize wood frames, Icon’s buildings are fabricated using concrete. Its 15.5-foot-tall 3D printers squeeze out layers of concrete to "print" exterior and interior wall systems. Once finished, Lennar will complete the interior and exterior work using more traditional construction techniques. 

The 3D printing process takes about a week, which is about the same amount of time it would take to frame and drywall a home traditionally, the WSJ reports. However, the partners hope that they can speed up the process in the future. 

"Construction-scale 3D printing not only delivers higher-quality homes faster and more affordably, but fleets of printers can change the way that entire communities are built for the better," Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of Icon, said in a press release. "We believe this will be a watershed moment in the history of community-scale development and the future breaking into the present."

Only time will tell whether 3D printed homes and the planned community will be more than just a gimmick. If it works, though, it could offer a blueprint for a way of completely rethinking future housing.

READ MORE: 3-D Printed Houses Are Sprouting Near Austin as Demand for Homes Grows [The Wall Street Journal]

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