El Salvador is the smallest and most populated country in Central America. While it has a reputation as a wonderful vacation paradise with surfing, paddle boating, other water sports, and some of the most stunning nature, the country is also prone to natural disasters. With 25 volcanoes, threats of eruptions and floods from the rivers, and earthquakes, it is a challenge to integrate the rapid industrialization, an unstable economy and political landscape, and nature into a peaceful, prosperous lifestyle. In fact, all over Latin America, more than 133 million people are struggling to make ends meet. They earn less than two American dollars a day on average and live in slums. Many of whom under poor conditions, in shacks that won’t withstand torrent rains, water or the other natural crisis. In addition, these dwellings often don’t have working infrastructures, paved access roads, running water, or stable power supplies. The houses are built with cheap materials, have dirt floors, and thin walls. Not an ideal environment for children to grow up. This is where New Story comes in. The non-profit organization based in San Francisco, USA, made it its goal to provide shelters in the developing world. Since its inception in 2015, the organization has funded more than 1,300 homes in Mexico, Haiti, Bolivia, and El Salvador. They partner with local organizations to help build homes that withstand storms and so contribute to combating homelessness.
However, over this period the founders also realized that building homes takes time. Even with their efficient processes and systems, it will take too long and it is too expensive to make a huge impact fast enough. They want to do more. Over the last 12 months, they have partnered with ICON, a construction technologies company in Austin, Texas, to develop a 3D printer and materials that will enable the building of sustainable, affordable homes in the poorest areas in the world – faster and more efficiently.
Recently, New Story announced that the Vulcan, a new mobile printer for the developing world and as of now the largest such printer in the world, is ready to launch. After tests in Austin, the new device is capable to print single story 600-800 square feet houses in less than 24 hours and for below USD 4,000. That is about USD 2,500 cheaper than New Story’s previous method. The used materials such as small-aggregate cementitious material (or mortar) will be locally sourced. Local labor will be employed to put these houses together. The buildings are produced with almost zero waste as the printer only produces the material that is needed for the life-size houses. The printer is set up on tracks and has a quasi-unlimited printing area which means that more or less any 2D floor plan can be printed. It fits on a truck and is suited to endure long trips in harsh conditions. The 3D printing software suite allows for customization so that the houses can be adapted to the needs of the communities. The output is houses with proper floors and walls that are resilient, sustainable, and quickly built and cost-effective. Other companies have dabbled in the construction of buildings through 3D printing e.g. Chinese Win Sun or the Russian firm Apis Core. Their focus is, however, more on the high-end, rapidly developing areas in the world. Brett Hagler, co-founder of New Story, has a different vision and asks: ‘…what if the bottom billions weren’t the last ones to get this but the first ones to get this?’ He is looking to revolutionize the homebuilding sector and improve the quality of life of people in poor areas. After some more tests, it is expected that within the next 18 months, 50 houses will be built employing the Vulcan 3D printing technology in a community in El Salvador. New Story commits to using 100% of the donation money to building homes. Overheads and R&D are financed by private donations. If you like to support them, go to their website.
More stories on 3D printing technology: Rapid Liquid Printing.