In an inspiring presentation at South By Southwest last month titled “It’s Time to Build” (perhaps in reference to Marc Andreesen’s compelling, widely-circulated 2020 blog post of the same title), ICON co-founder and CEO Jason Ballard shared his vision of a new paradigm in homebuilding, and the power of 3D printed houses to change the construction industry.
“I think the homes and buildings of our future are going to have to be profoundly different than they are today,” he said. “Not a little bit different—profoundly different.”
ICON was founded in 2017 and has exploded in the five years since, raising $451 million in equity and approaching a valuation of $2 billion, delivering two dozen 3D printed homes and structures (including houses in Austin, a community in Mexico, and military barracks in Texas), and receiving several design and innovation awards. During SXSW the company unveiled its sleek, architecturally innovative House Zero in East Austin, a home “specifically designed to utilize opportunities created by 3D printing.”
The company’s gantry-style 3D printer is called the Vulcan, and it builds homes by pouring a concrete mix into a software-dictated pattern; instead of one wall going up at a time, one layer is put down at a time, the whole structure “growing” from the ground up. The printer consists of an axis set on a track, giving it a flexible and theoretically unlimited print area, and its software can be operated from a tablet or smartphone.