Mexico

Mexican Community Being Built Using 3D Printer

A neighborhood in Mexico is being built for families who are currently living on $3 per day, thanks to a 3D printer. Two houses have already been created using an enormous 3D printer in a poverty stricken area of Mexico, making them the first houses in the new neighborhood. However, developers are saying the houses are not prototypes and that they are planning on replacing the current, rickety structures that residents had previously used to build their homes – such as wood or metal – within the next twelve months.

Tabasco in Mexico is a seismic zone, prone to flooding and earthquakes and therefore need structures that can stay upright during an earthquake, and dry during the torrential rains.The community is being built by New Story and their co-founder and CEO Brett Hagler, who told CNN:

“These families are the most vulnerable, and in the lowest income … and they’re living on about an average of $3 a day. They’re living in literally a pieced-together shack that during the rainy season, it will rain and it will flood their shack. Some of the women even said that the water will go up to their knees when it rains, sometimes for months.”

A non-profit whose aim is to help families in need of a home, New Story has already built over 2,700 dwellings in Mexico and South America since Hagler co-founded the company in 2014. However, this is the first project they have opted to use 3D printing for all the properties.

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Partnering with ICON and ÉCHALE has enabled them to work on the ambitious project. The project is using 3D printing robotics that were developed by construction technology company ICON. Mexican non-profit ÉCHALE have been working to locate the families who will eventually live in the properties and therefore have taken their input to help the design of the building.

The printer is a staggering 33-foot and “prints” a concrete mix to build the walls, layer by layer. As the mix hardens while it’s drying it can take around 24 hours – over a couple of days – for two homes to be built. This is nearly twice as fast as a New Story home is built using normal techniques. New Story says that since the mix is stronger than concrete, the foundations are reinforced, helping the properties to stand up to any seismic activity.

Each 500-square-foot home will have a flat roof and curved walls, with a living room, kitchen, one bathroom and two bedrooms. However, the two homes already built are still empty as it would not be safe for residents to live in the construction area. It is unclear as yet how much each house will cost however New Story is keen to work with families, potentially charging them around 20-30 per cent of their income. Many residents in Tabasco just want the opportunity to own something in their own community.

Austin based company ICON took over three years to create a printer that would be able to sustain this type of project, and this printer – named Vulcan II – is perfect for the job. Although in this project the printer is concentrating on two 500-square-foot homes simultaneously, it has the capacity to build one 2,000 square foot house. It can also build walls that are 28 feet wide and nearly 9 feet tall.

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In the last year alone the speed in which the printer works has become a lot faster. In March 2018 ICON announced they had built a three bedroom house in 48 hours. Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON explained:

“It’s 10 times better than where we were a year ago. I am so proud. It is so rare that the most in need of our sisters and brothers globally get first access to advanced technologies and breakthroughs in materials science. We think part of what 3D printing allows us to do is to deliver a much higher-quality product to the housing market at a speed and price that’s typically not available for people in low-income housing. It is a house that anyone would be proud to live in.”

However getting the printer away from the lab and actually getting it into the construction site was a hard task thanks to some harsh weather conditions. Although the company used a standard shipping container to move the printer to site, border authorities asked many questions when they say it.

Ballard confirmed that the printer had arrived at the height of summer, at the beginning of the rainy season, therefore creating even more logistical issues for the company. With muddy roads, floods and high humidity Ballard says he realized how lucky we are in America.