3D printing technology has led to the creation of an amazing array of three-dimensional objects and now it's being used to create something on a much larger scale — the house of your dreams.
The future of home building may be headed toward a 3D printing revolution with the technology being used to build homes at half the time and at half the price of traditional construction. It just might be an emerging market that builders and buyers simply cannot ignore.
Jason Ballard, co-founder and CEO of ICON, a construction technologies company that uses 3D printing to create homes, told Weekend TODAY that picking out the house you want can be as simple as selecting a design and pushing print.
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"3D printing is taking a digital file of a house design and layer by layer, depositing material to build up the house in three dimensions, one layer at a time," Ballard told NBC's Kathy Park.
And unlike traditional homes, which can take weeks or even months to frame out, the walls and foundation of a 3D-printed home can be ready in as little as two days, with only a three or four person crew. All of these factors brings the production costs of a 3D-printed house down to as little as $4,000 per unit.
Companies like ICON are creating homes from the ground up, using a massive printer and a special concrete formula. The proprietary concrete used to make the homes is inherently resilient and this cost-effective yet sturdy construction could help make homes nationwide more affordable, making it a major contender in the fight against homelessness and the effects of climate change.
"My hometown's been destroyed multiple times by hurricanes and tropical storms," said Ballard. "I've spent Christmas in a FEMA trailer. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," he added, pointing out that it takes a lot of money and time for a town to try and recover from disasters.
ICON built the nation's first community of 3D homes in Austin, Texas to uplift the local homeless population.
Tim Shea was the first person to move in.
"I could never have imagined from where I came from that I would ever have this beautiful a place to live in," he told TODAY. "I'm so thankful."
3D homes are starting to hit the wider market. On Long Island, New York, SQ4D constructed the first 3D-printed home for sale to the public.
"We're trying to build houses in half the time for half the price," SQ4D's director of operations Kirk Andersen said. "Our profits will be higher and we'll be able to show that with more projects that we do."
A three-bedroom, 2-bathroom house built in just two days using 3D printing technology was listed for just under $300,000 — approximately half the cost of a comparable home in the same area. Offers poured in by the thousands.
"It's just impossible to find anything at this price," said potential buyer Mitch Johnson.
"And this quality," added Patty Johnson.
And with a housing shortage and a labor shortage, it seems that 3D-printed homes couldn't have come at a better time.