We've just caught a glimpse into the future of real estate, thanks to ICON, a 3D-printing robotics start-up in the construction-tech space. ICON has used 3D printing -- so far -- to create homes that could end homelessness in America, to work on off-world construction (e.g., on the Moon or Mars), and to build military barracks.
As you can see, the sky's the limit on what this company can theoretically produce using 3D-printing robotics, software, and advanced materials. (ICON uses a proprietary cement-based material.) That might explain the reason ICON has experienced 400% revenue growth almost every year it's been in business.
Located in Austin, Texas, ICON has just completed a Series B funding round of $207 million, led by Norwest Venture Partners. Other investors in this round included 8VC, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), BOND, Citi, Crosstimbers Capital Group, Ensemble Capital, Fifth Wall, LENx, Moderne Ventures, and Oakhouse Partners.
A new industry
ICON isn't the only company creating 3D-printed buildings, and in fact, it isn't behind the first-ever 3D-printed house sold in the U.S either. That distinction goes to SQ4D, another company that develops 3D-printing construction systems. SQ4D developed a 1,500-square-foot 3:2 home located in Riverhead, New York, which sold for more than its $299,999 listing price (about half of what a comparable-area home sells for).
ICON did, however, create the first permitted 3D-printed home in the U.S.: a 350-square-foot home that took only 48 hours to complete -- at 25% speed. But that house never sold.
While several companies already occupy the 3D-printing space, at three years of age, ICON is a known player in this new industry and is ready to scale, said ICON's CEO Jason Ballard.
The ability to construct 3D-printed homes is a game changer, a true disrupter in the housing industry. Theoretically, homelessness could be wiped out not just in America but also around the world. In Russia, for example, Apis Cor built a 3D-printed house in less than a day, with the total construction cost being just over $10,000 for a 410-square-foot house.
Projects by ICON
- ICON has already built more than two dozen 3D-printed homes in the U.S. and Mexico, more than half of which are for the homeless or people living in poverty.
- ICON teamed with developer 3Strands to build mainstream housing in Austin called the East 17th Street Residences. The Austin homes have two to four bedrooms and are supposed to be more resilient to natural disasters than traditional homes because of the advanced materials ICON uses. These homes have a 3D-printed ground floor and a traditionally built second floor. They range from 1,000 to 2,000 square feet in size and cost about $450,000 apiece, which is about what comparable homes in the area are selling for.
- Future plans include projects with NASA to create habitats on the moon and Mars.
The Millionacres bottom line
Real estate investors, take note: 3D printing is here and could be the main way homes are built in the future. In fact, Ballard told TechCrunch that already he's seen a "radical increase in demand for 3D-printed homes and structures."
3D-printed homes have the potential to increase the housing supply, decrease the cost of homes, increase the speed at which houses are built, and produce homes that are more resilient to extreme weather conditions. ICON plans to use the funding from this Series B round to build more 3D-printed homes and to undertake more research and development.