The world’s first 3D printed community is to be developed in Mexico, enabling low-cost housing for some of the country’s poorest communities.

Two of the planned 50 houses have already been printed, each of which will measure 46m². Upon completion, targeted for the end of 2020, the community will be dedicated to housing some of the poorest people in Mexico’s Tabasco state. 

The project has been developed by charities New Story, based in the US, and Échale, based in Mexico, which have partnered with tech company ICON to create this community. 

The families living in the impoverished, rural part of Mexico are currently susceptible to flooding, and housed in structure that residents built themselves out of metal, wood and any other available materials. 

It is therefore important that the 3D houses can withstand earthquakes and keep dry during heavy rains. 

How Are The Houses Made?

Each house takes Vulcan II, the ICON-made printer, about 24 hours to make over several days. Vulcan II is the result of three years of prototyping to ensure a printer was capable of this project. 

Vulcan II can build two 500ft² houses concurrently, according to ICON, as well as building a 2,000ft² house. The walls can be built as high as nine feet and 28 feet wide. 

The 33ft printer produces a concrete mix that hardens when it dries, with walls built one layer at a time. This mix is sturdier than traditional concrete, New Story says, and the foundation has been reinforced to withstand seismic activity. 

“With this technology, we can print a custom home, and we can do it quicker, with less waste, and at a lower cost than traditional homebuilding methods,” said ICON. 

While the cost of the project has not been revealed by New Story, both charities have agreed to pay between 20-30% of each family’s salary to cover initial costs while they move into the houses. 

The Future of Construction Methods?

3D printing is set to play a big role in off-site construction, enabling materials to be created to improve a build, and this project in Mexico highlights the potential 3D printing has for affordable housing. 

Moreover, 3D printing can be more cost-effective and faster than traditional construction systems

The entire process isn’t automised, however. The role of Échale in the project is to enter the housing structure, once set up, and manually add in windows and doors.

In the UK, affordable housing has been a pressing concern for the government, and because of the steep deposits required, many choose to self build or custom build their own homes as a way of saving on costs. 

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