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Mexico to get world’s first 3D printed community

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Contxto – As everybody in the tech/startup world knows, for a project to be successful it needs to be scalable. Mexico’s Échale and US-based New Story, both charities, teamed up with tech company ICON to take this concept rather literally. 

The 3D triad has scaled the size of three-dimensional printing to the next level by producing durable, low-cost housing for some of the poorest communities in Mexico’s Tabasco state. 

So far they’ve printed two out of the planned 50 houses that will make up the development. Each one will measure 46 square meters, will have curved walls, and ample spaces to facilitate good ventilation in a particularly muggy part of the country. Indeed, the structure’s makeup has been adapted to local needs after interviews with members of the community.

Each house takes about 24 hours to make, so one might expect that such expediency would come with a hefty price tag. However, even though New Story has declined to reveal the actual price of the project, the soon-to-be homeowners will not be paying the full price. Both parties have negotiated to pay between 20 to 30 percent of each family’s salary to cover at least a few of the costs. That’s about MXN$400 (just over US$20) a month.

New Story is aware that this will constitute a bit of a burden on the community. Indeed, in a press release it said that “families are selected based on need; in this community, the median family income per month is $76.50, some of the lowest-income families in Mexico as a whole.” 

The idea is that the charity will shoulder most of the costs, but the community will buy into the project, gaining genuine ownership of it.

Old story, new solutions

New Story describes itself as “a nonprofit pioneering solutions to end global homelessness.” As of 2014, it has used the charitable donations it has received to build more than 2,500 homes using traditional construction for families in need.

It also has quite a track record in Latin America, having carried out developments in Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia, and Mexico. 

However, for this project and in partnership with ICON, they have been able to take a leap to the next level of development with its 3D printed houses. 

It’s not all automized yet though. That’s where Mexico’s Échale comes in. Once the 3D housing structure is up, the Mexican charity goes in to set up windows and doors manually.

Vulcan II, set phasers to print

I know lots of you tech-heads have come here just for the printer. And I don’t blame you. Check out this oddly satisfying video of the concrete extruder:

mexico to get world’s first 3d printed community
So. Satisfying…

This is ICON’s main area of expertise. As it says, the Austin-based company “creates printers, robotics, and advanced materials that are revolutionizing homebuilding.”

The company also brags that “with the Vulcan II printer we’ve developed the 3D printing robotics, software… With this technology, we can print a custom home, and we can do it quicker, with less waste, and at a lower cost than traditional homebuilding methods.”

Scalable indeed. Bricklayers beware…


Alejandro González Ormerod
Historian, writer, and editor from Mexico City. He was a book publisher, academic, and cheesemonger before joining Contxto. Still deciding on which Latin American country to visit next; food and fun are the main criteria.

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