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3D concrete printer nears commercialization via Texas housing plan

Sources: Icon and Cielo LP, Austin, Texas; CP staff

A robotics-savvy, 3D concrete printing equipment developer eyeing affordable housing solutions will deploy its first commercial unit in partnership with a fellow Austin, Texas, business and like-minded real estate developer. Against the backdrop of the 2019 South by Southwest Conference and Festivals (SXSW) earlier this month, Icon and Cielo Property Group announced commissioning of a printer for rapid delivery of modest (< 1,000 sq. ft.) but robust residences in the Texas capital city—one of the country’s hottest housing markets.

03 19 Printer
Icon Vulcan II
03 19 Home

Chicon House

A gantry device engineered to traverse conventional slabs on grade, Icon’s 33- x 11.5-ft. Vulcan II printer will net walls up to 28 feet wide, 8.5 feet high and of unlimited depth for homes typically under 2,000 sq. ft. The three-sided machine supports a printer trolley whose nozzle places Lavacrete, a proprietary portland cement mix, in 1-in. high, 2-in. wide beads at 5-7 inches per second. Presumably dosed with rheology and viscosity modifying admixtures, the 6,000-psi mix is produced in the equivalent of a portable batch plant; dubbed Magma, it is transported along with the Vulcan II in a custom trailer. An integrated, tablet-based system controls all printer and batch plant aspects and is programmed, Icon officials note, to “capture real-time data down to the millisecond, enabling machine learning and predictive analytics so machines get smarter over time.”

Icon anticipates mid-year Vulcan II deployments in Austin along with an affordable housing venture in Latin America. The machine builds on the scale and speed of a predecessor version, whose potential for rapid, tight tolerance placement of mortar-like concrete was demonstrated in Chicon House. The proof-of-concept Austin project was built in weeks, billed as the first 3D-printed concrete home in the U.S., and spotlighted during the 2018 SXSW gathering. It enjoyed additional exposure this year thanks to a visit from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson a day prior to Conference and Festivals opening.  —,

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