3D Printer HardwareConstruction 3D Printing

Construction 3D printing is looking up as ICON launches PHOENIX

After COBOD's 3-story house in Canada and Constructions-3D setting a World record for the tallest building, ICON is getting in on the robotic concrete printing game

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For many years 3D printed buildings were just one-floor houses. Then COBOD started working on two- and three-story habitable structures. Now, just after French firm Constructions-3D set a world record for the tallest 3D printed building with its construction 3D printing robotic arm, US firm ICON is getting in on the height game and introducing PHOENIX, its new multi-story robotic construction system.

The machine was presented at a large event during SXSW dubbed “Domus Ex Machina”, where ICON also introduced a new suite of products and technologies designed to further automate construction including a new low-carbon building material, a digital catalog for residential architecture with more than 60 ready-to-build home designs, and an AI Architect for home design and construction. ICON believes that together these technologies make its construction technology platform a faster, more sustainable way to build high-quality housing affordably around the world.

“This is the moment we’ve really been working for these past six years,” said Jason Ballard, ICON Co-Founder and CEO. “When we launched the company and the first permitted 3D-printed house in 2018 during SXSW, we set out to both decrease the cost and increase the quality of building instead of choosing one or the other. We didn’t want to just be the best at 3D printing, we wanted to be the best at building, period. Now, I believe we can say that is a reality. I am so proud of the work ICON has done to get to where we are today– not only the promise but the reality of technology, architecture and materials that will allow us to build better than anyone in the world.”

Construction 3D printing is looking up as ICON launches PHOENIX, after Constructions-3D set a World record for the tallest building

ICON’s new multi-story robotic construction system introduces the capability of printing an entire building enclosure including foundations and roof structures. By increasing speed and size and decreasing setup time and the number of required operators, this advanced robotic system promises to reduce ICON printing costs by half. With the typical forward-looking commercial strategy that has defined it, ICON is now taking orders for projects using Phoenix starting at $25/square foot for wall systems or $80/square foot including foundation and roof. This cost to build is lower than the most recent publicly available data for conventional construction of wall systems. This wall system cost would represent a savings of up to $25,000 for the average American home versus conventional construction. The first engineering prototype of Phoenix has completed a 27-foot-tall architectural demonstration structure, now on display in Austin, TX.

CODEX is ICON’s new digital catalog of ready-to-print home architecture features more than 60 designs across five collections: Texas modern, fire resilient, storm resilient, affordable, and avant-garde. CODEX aims to make high-design and high-performance residential architecture available at all price points. CODEX allows builders, developers, and home buyers to build with ICON quickly and affordably using world-class architecture.

Construction 3D printing is looking up as ICON launches PHOENIX, after Constructions-3D set a World record for the tallest building
CODEX, ICON’s new digital catalog of ready-to-print home architecture features more than 60 designs across five collections

ICON’s CarbonX is a new low-carbon extrudable/printable concrete formula. When paired with ICON’s wall system and robotic construction methods, ICON’s CarbonX formula is the lowest carbon residential building system ready to be used at scale. The company will be shipping CarbonX to the field in April 2024 and also announced that it will make its material available to other projects and customers, not only its own 3D printed projects. Future formulations of CarbonX are already in development to reduce carbon footprint even further and are expected to be announced in the coming year.

Vitruvius is an AI system for designing and building homes. The ultimate goal of Vitruvius is to take human and project inputs and produce robust architecture, plans, permit-ready designs, budgets, and schedules. Launched today with an open beta, Vitruvius will help anyone design homes and generate floor plans, interior renders, and exterior renders in minutes based on their own desires, budgets, and feedback.

Ballard continued, “In the future, I believe nearly all construction will be done by robots, and nearly all construction-related information will be processed and managed by AI systems. It is clear to me that this is the way to cut the cost and time of construction in half while making homes that are twice as good and more faithfully express the values and hopes of the people who live in them. We are going to need the same velocity of ambitious technological breakthroughs that we’ve experienced in these past few years, but we know where we are headed. Going forward, ICON is an AI and robotics company focused on transforming the way we build and accelerating what we believe is a very exciting future. Vitruvius will become the default method for ICON in designing custom homes. We intend to be selling and building Vitruvius-designed homes beginning this year.”

Construction 3D printing is looking up as ICON launches PHOENIX, after Constructions-3D set a World record for the tallest building
ICON’s Vitruvius is an AI system for designing and building homes

Wells Fargo also announced on stage their foundation has committed $500,000 in grant funding to Mobile Loaves & Fishes, the Austin nonprofit that has been faithfully serving the area’s homeless community for more than 25 years, to help bring to life Initiative 99-designed homes and see multiple homes built at Community First! Village (CFV) to serve the underhoused community. Upon completion of Phase II of the global design competition, ICON and Mobile Loaves & Fishes will select one winning design for ICON to deliver multiple units within CFV’s expansion of their master-planned development in Austin, TX.

“ICON’s innovative 3D-printed technology paired with these beautiful, imaginative Initiative 99 designs represent a model for the future of affordable housing. Wells Fargo is proud to help make these homes a reality,” said Darlene Goins, President of the Wells Fargo Foundation.

COBOD’s tall plans

In early March, a COBOD 3D printer was used to build North America’s first 3D printed 3-story building, near Toronto, Canada by the company nidus3D, after the company had also built the first two story-building in 2022. This achievement, which follows the multi-story buildings 3D printed with a COBOD system in Germany in previous years, is even more significant as it is the only one that used a gantry-based rather than a robotic system even on taller structures.

The townhouse has a usable floor area of 420 m2 (4,500 square feet) and includes the world’s first 3D printed basement, a widespread feature in many Canadian and US homes in colder regions.
Tenants will move into the project’s 2 semi-detached primary units and additional basement suites later in 2024.

The project’s façade features traditional brick, showcasing how modern and old technology can be blended.
North America’s first 3D printed 3-story building with a 3D printed basement near Toronto, Canada.
While a significant portion of global 3D printed buildings currently consist of single-story structures, the push for greater accessibility in housing has also meant a focus on constructing buildings with more stories. Notably, approximately 50% of all constructed single-family homes in the US are two stories or more. The company that has been pushing the boundaries of the 3D printing technology most in this respect in North America is Canadian-based nidus3D, which completed North America’s first 3D printed 2-story building in 2022. Now, beating their record, nidus3D has finished a 3D printed 3-story building near Toronto at 420 m2 (4,500 SF) using a 3D printer from COBOD International.

North America first 3D printed 3-story building with a 3D printed basement near Toronto, Canada.

The house stands at an impressive 3.5 stories, approximately 12.5 meters (41 ft) from footing to top roof, of which 3 full stories were 3D printed in real concrete using locally sourced materials. Setting this project further apart is the inclusion of the world’s first 3D printed basement, a common element in many North American homes. Unlike traditional basements, which are typically poured in place, this basement was printed by placing the 3D printer directly within the excavation. The result is an easily accessible walk-out basement.

Co-founder of nidus3D, Hugh Roberts, expressed immense pride in their achievement: “nidus3D is proud to be the first in North America to successfully construct a three-story structure including the below-grade basement in 3D printed concrete. This project demonstrates what can be accomplished by combining nidus3D’s industry-leading expertise and engineering with world-class 3D Printing technology”.

The Ontario project includes the world’s first 3D printed basement, completed by placing the printer within the excavation.

The project’s exterior boasts a finish of traditional brick, harmonizing modern technology with the classic aesthetics of the neighborhood. It accommodates four apartments; two suites nestled in the basement, while the other two occupy the main building, forming semi-attached homes extending to the steel-framed roof. Tenants of the project will move in later in 2024. Philip Lund-Nielsen, COBOD Co-founder & Head of Americas, commented from COBOD’s facilities in Miami, Florida: “We are very proud to see nidus3D beat their record by 3D printing the first 3-story building in our hemisphere – a feat that other COBOD customers outside North America have also achieved previously. Completing the world’s first 3D printed basement is another impressive achievement that only amplifies the technology’s potential to transform construction, and we notice with pride that multiple of our customers are pioneering what can be achieved with the 3D printing technology”.

Constructions 3D sets record

And just last week, French company Constructions-3D, in partnership with Sika, set a new world record with the construction of the tallest building ever made using 3D concrete printing technology. This project, realized in partnership with and using Sikacrete-733 materials from Sika, marks another milestone in the history of construction and 3D printing technology.

Following the Guinness World Record for the largest 3D printed villa in Dubai in December 2023, the MaxiPrinter from Constructions-3D has now achieved a second world record. The construction of the Tower in Bruay-sur-l’Escaut, Hauts-de-France, stands as a historical achievement in the field of 3D concrete printing. With an impressive height of 14.21 meters and a vast surface area of 450 m², this technological feat redefines the boundaries of construction capabilities.

Going higher

While companies like ICON and COBOD are dominating the market now, others continue to grow mostly targeting the US and MENA markets. Apis Cor, a company that originated in Russia many years ago, has established a strong presence in the US with its robotic technology, while Winsun, once a global leader with pioneering projects in China and Africa, reinvented itself as Gaudi Tech and debuted the “World’s Largest Mobile In-Situ 3D Printer” at WOC 2024.

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