The Vulcan Printer

3D printed houses to shelter the homeless

Do the right thing” is Google’s current company motto and it speaks to a duty that many in the tech world feel – innovation coupled with ethics. Housing charity New Story and construction tech firm ICON have taken this sane ethos to heart and teamed up to create 3D print houses for the homeless in El Salvador. While it’s still in its infancy, 3D houses are set to be printed for use in El Salvador as soon as 2019.

“The Vulcan” is a special printer developed by ICON and prints concretelike material out of a nozzle in a preprogrammed pattern, slowly working its way up the layers until the basic structure for a house is printed. From there, humans take over to add the rest such as the roof, windows or doors. The Vulcan printer itself is designed to work in unpredictable environments where water, power and labour is limited – perfectly suited for places like El Salvador and Haiti.

“With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near zero-waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability.”, says ICON co-founder Jason Ballard.

The proof-of-concept model that debuted at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas cost only US$10,000 to produce, stands at a humble 32 square metres, and took only 48 hours to make – including finishing touches. Profit motivation is a key driver for many in the tech world, so it’s refreshing to see technology created with the sole purpose of helping others instead of just helping oneself.