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Texas 3D printing firm unveils next-gen construction technology: 'Something radical and courageous needs to happen'

"What we once thought was impossible is now a prototype in the field, printing its first full-scale structure."

"What we once thought was impossible is now a prototype in the field, printing its first full-scale structure."

Photo Credit: ICON

Texas-based ICON has made headlines recently that involve the moon, Mars, and even Vulcan

Now the 3D printing company has rolled out a state-of-the-art contraption called Phoenix that can build 27-foot-tall, two-story buildings from foundation to roof components with cleaner materials. Better yet, the giant arm-like device improves speed and setup time, and needs fewer operators, according to Interesting Engineering. 

"What we once thought was impossible is now a prototype in the field, printing its first full-scale structure," Evan Jensen, vice president of strategic research and development, said in a video clip. He called Phoenix a "more advanced, more versatile system."

Phoenix is a single arm on a rotating base. A high-tech unit at the end of the works can extend to pipe out the construction "ink," a high-strength mix that offers a 24% carbon reduction. 

Guided by an artificial intelligent architect, Phoenix builds on ICON's Vulcan accomplishments — and we are not talking about Spock's homeworld. ICON's larger, 46-foot-wide setup is able to "print" single-story homes in volume. It helped ICON and its partners get an entire 3D community in Texas started, according to a CNN report. 

Now the company's 3D tech is being tapped by NASA to develop a lunar surface construction system that could one day be used on the Red Planet, as well.  

As part of the latest news in Austin, IE reported that a Phoenix-made building is on display. From above, its rounded perimeter looks sort of like the outline of a coffee stain. Builds from 3D often have modern, or even futuristic, designs. From the side, you can see the layers of concrete that were individually jetted to form walls. 

It's a field becoming flush with innovations that could revolutionize the home-building sector. Some 3D firms can complete jobs in days. Other companies are recycling plastic waste as part of builds. 

The goal is to provide sustainable, high-quality housing quickly. If inventions in the sector can continue to incorporate recycling and more efficient processes into construction, it could help to clean up the sector. 

About 40% of U.S. planet-warming air pollution comes from construction and daily heating, cooling, and lighting inside buildings, the American Institute of Architects noted. But you don't have to order a new 3D home to reduce utility costs and pollution. Some simple weatherization updates, including better insulation, can save you hundreds of dollars a year on energy expenses while also cutting harmful air pollution.  

With Phoenix, ICON intends to halve its printing costs. Wall systems can be built for $25 per square foot, or $80 if the foundation and roof is included, per the company website. Angi reported that the average cost to build a home in the United States is $150 per square foot. That estimate includes interior and exterior finishes. 

Moving ahead, Phoenix, Vulcan, and other 3D printers are likely to be building homes in a growing number of communities. Since 2018, ICON has printed more than 140 homes in the U.S. and Mexico, all per IE and the company. 

"To address the global housing crisis, something radical and courageous needs to happen. Construction-scale 3D printing is designed to not only deliver high-quality homes faster and more affordably, but fleets of printers can change the way entire communities are built for the better," ICON co-founder Jason Ballard said on the company website.

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