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ICON: Vulcan II – 3D Printer

Contributions:

  • Concept Development
  • System Architecture
  • Detailed Design
  • System Integration
  • Testing and Refinement
  • Ramp-Up and Production Support

When Icon first approached us with their idea of a 3D printer that could build homes they were a company of three with an unprecedented goal. Not to turn down a challenge, we designed and built the Vulcan I printer and helped them print the first permitted 3D printed home in the country in early 2018. Roughly nine months from when we first began working with Icon they were wrapping up a $9 million investment round and we broke ground on the second iteration of the printer.

The Vulcan I was really a proof of concept, showing the world that a house could be built quickly and cheaply using 3D printing technology. The Vulcan II needed to be able to actually go out into the world and print multiple homes in a variety of conditions. As we developed the architecture for Vulcan II, priority was given to improving the material delivery system (MDS). Concrete is an inherently finicky material to work with and the original design had multiple points of possible failure. We moved the heavy mass of about-to-be-printed concrete off of the extruder nozzle and streamlined the rest of the MDS to be more reliable. Much of the insight into what to improve came from our team being onsite and working directly with Icon during that first home print.

Another major design requirement of the Vulcan II was that it be portable with a minimal amount of setup and calibration. That meant that weight was also a concern and needed to be kept to a minimum. We were able to achieve this while also increasing the size of home the printer could build and increasing the overall speed of print.

While we were designing the Vulcan II, Icon was building up their own staff of talented engineers. We worked alongside their growing team to ensure a seamless transition of responsibility to them, without Icon ever needing to delay progress on their goals.

The second 3D printed home was completed in the spring of 2019 at the Community First Village of Austin, and was printed with the newly designed Vulcan II. Its next mission; a community of over 100 homes in Central America, and dozens more at CFV.