These $10,000 Concrete Homes Are 3D-Printed in Less Than 24 Hours

ICON, New Story
ICON, New Story

What makes housing so expensive? Labor costs, for one. According to a 2014 Census Bureau survey, the average single-family home takes about six months to construct, and that's a lot of man-hours. A new type of home from Austin, Texas-based startup ICON and the housing nonprofit New Story is hoping to change that. Their homes can be built from the ground up in 12 to 24 hours, and they cost builders just $10,000 to construct, The Verge reports.

ICON's construction method uses the Vulcan 3D printer. With concrete as the building material, the printer pipes out a structure complete with a living room, bedroom, bathroom, and porch that covers 600 to 800 square feet. That's a little less than the size of the average New York apartment and significantly larger than a typical tiny home.

The project, which was revealed at this year's SXSW festival in Austin, isn't the first to apply 3D printing to home construction. Moscow, Beijing, and Dubai are all home to structures assembled using the technology. What makes ICON and New Story's buildings remarkable is what they intend to do with them: Within the next 18 months, they plan to set up a community of 100 3D-printed homes for residents of El Salvador. If that venture is successful, the team wants to bring the printer to other places in need of affordable housing, including parts of the U.S.

ICON wants to eventually bring the $10,000 price tag down to $4000. The 3D-printed houses owe their affordability to low labor costs and cheap materials. Not only is cement inexpensive, but it's also sturdier and more familiar than other common 3D-printed materials like plastic. The simple structure also makes the homes easy to maintain.

“Conventional construction methods have many baked-in drawbacks and problems that we’ve taken for granted for so long that we forgot how to imagine any alternative,” ICON co-founder Jason Ballard said in a release. “With 3D printing, you not only have a continuous thermal envelope, high thermal mass, and near-zero waste, but you also have speed, a much broader design palette, next-level resiliency, and the possibility of a quantum leap in affordability."

After printing and safety tests are completed, the first families are expected to move into their new 3D-printed homes sometime in 2019.

[h/t The Verge]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

iStock.com/gargantiopa
iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

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