For those of us who still equate the word “printer” with a dusty inkjet contraption used to print your homework, the concept of printing a 4,000-square-foot house may be out of this universe. And soon, it might be: Icon, a maker of 3D-printed houses here on earth, wants to take that groundbreaking construction onto the moon and Mars.
The company, based in Austin, Texas, produced America’s first fully permitted 3D-printed house in 2018. “It’s been a wild rocket ride ever since,” says Jason Ballard, cofounder and CEO. Icon, our World Changing Ideas General Excellence winner in 2020, has since been printing properties with specific attention to helping solve housing affordability for the poorest in society. “Icon was born out of a frustration with the housing situation,” he says.
On this week’s edition of our World Changing Ideas podcast, I spoke to Ballard about the mind-boggling construction process and Icon’s larger goals. Ballard was dismayed with early renderings of 3D-printed objects, “plastic octopuses and spoons” that were not addressing real issues. “3D printing would be best on things that are big, slow, and bespoke,” he thought.