Beginner-Friendly: Recreating The First 3D Printed House In Texas

This 350 square feet 3D printed house, known as the Chicon House, was the first, permitted 3D printed building in the United States of America, and maybe in the whole world. The Chicon House was 3D printed by ICON, a Texas-based construction technology company developing 3D printing technologies for homebuilding and construction through their partnership with New Story, a housing non-profit working towards the global housing crisis. ICON used its Vulcan I printer for building Chicon House, with a print cost of $10,000. Chicon House wasn’t entirely 3D printed, lacking a 3D printed roof and the appliances/decorations. However, the full build of the house cost about $35,000.

Jason Ballard, the CEO and Co-founder of ICON, also talked about ICON’s new 3D printer, the Vulcan II.

“If I printed that house today with the Vulcan II, we could print that house for about $2,500.”

3D Modelling Chicon House

I used Tinkercad to create a 3D model of Chicon House. I used captured footage (video 1, video 2) and images of the house to build the model. No official map was used for this project. Modifications were made for suitability which means this model can’t be considered a perfect duplicate for the original project. But don’t stop reading now!

Step 1: Base

I created a 170 x 150 platform with a height of 0.5 units. This is what the house will stand on.

Step 2: Primary Structure

As seen in the image of the original structure, Chicon House is rather a curvilinear building instead of a rectilinear one. This is why I chose a shape with curved corners.

Step 3: Doors and Windows

A key objective of mine while building this 3D model was to avoid overhangs. I used triangular shapes to carve out the windows and kept the hypotenuse either at the bottom or the side. The entrance door is still a rectangular shape which poses the strain of overhangs, but will be fixed in the next step.

Step 4: Entrance Door Overhang Fix

I used a triangular shape at the top edge of the entrance door and grouped it with the rest of the structure to avoid a complete overhang. Now, the top edge of the door is somewhat diagonal.

Step 5: Bedroom Wall

I inserted a wall to create space for a bedroom as done so in the Chicon House project. The edges of the wall aren’t as sharp as conventional walls which are formed by 90° angles. Instead, the edges of the wall are slightly curvilinear as well, to give it a look of 3D printed concrete.

Step 6: Living Room Wall

A new wall was constructed to create space for the living room and separate the house into smaller sections. Like the previous wall, this wall is also not as sharp as conventional walls which are formed by 90° angles. Instead, the edges of the wall are slightly curvilinear as well, to give it a look of 3D printed concrete.

Step 7: Workspace/Bathroom Divider Wall

Construction 3D printing technologies come in quite handy for printing curved structures, which comparatively is more difficult to do with conventional methods. Here, a curved wall has been 3D printed to divide the bathroom and the workspace into two.

Step 8: Bathroom Door

There wasn’t a built-in shape in Tinkercad for a door like this so I imported the shape from an external source into the project.

Critical Observation: Because I was trying to avoid any overhangs as best as possible, I made sure that the doorknob should be designed in a way which avoids an overhang. This is an uncommon design for a doorknob and has some transparency issues, but none that can’t be easily addressed.

Step 9: Box Spring

Let’s start adding to the bedroom. I used a rectangular shape to act as the box spring for the bed. I didn’t use the common bedframe which has legs holding the weight, in order to avoid overhangs. However, this does not mean that it can’t be printed. A simple solution could be to print it upside down but since this project was going to be printed in a single go with everything connected to each other, I just used a different bedframe.

Step 10: Mattress

On top of the box spring, I added a similar rectangular shape to act as the mattress. However, the edges weren’t as sharp as the box spring and the shape looked more like a mattress.

Step 11: Pillows

In Tinkercad, I started off with two cubes and modified them to appear a bit more rounded. These became my pillows.

Step 12: Blanket

This blanket was also derived from a cube. Well, that’s the basic Tinkercad way for almost every shape. I did the same thing with the blanket as I did with the pillows, modify the cubes to appear more rounded but in this case, I made the shape much thinner for it to look like a blanket.

Step 13: Bedroom Decoration

Originally, Chicon House used various decorations and appliances in the house. For me personally, this seemed to work well for my model and so there it sits.

Step 14: Right Sofa

The living room is in the middle of the Chicon House and the setup was refashioned at different events. However, this seemed to be the most common and appropriate setting, where the sofa turns it’s back toward the bedroom wall.

Step 15: Left Sofa

Well, here’s the other half of the seating arrangement. Entertainment options such as a television could ideally be placed to face the couch.

Step 16: Living Room Decoration

Chicon House used many more decorations but then again, this seemed to work well for me, personally, and so there it sits.

Step 17: Workspace Desk

The smallest room in the house is reserved for a workspace (but of course, can be transformed to whatever one prefers). In Chicon House, many interior appliances/objects/decorations weren’t 3D printed. However, for my purpose, everything had to be 3D printed.

Critical Observation: The usual desk always has legroom available underneath. However, this would again pose the difficulty of 3D printing overhangs. To combat that, I designed the desk as a cube which solved the issue of the overhang but legroom was still not available. To address that, I carved out a spherical shape out of the desk so legroom became available and the challenge of overhangs was still kept to a minimum.

Step 18: Workspace Seat

The same circumstances apply for the workspace seat. A chair with legs would mean 3D printing overhangs. Well, with the desk being the shape of a cube, why not the seat?

Step 19: Workspace Decoration

I mean, I couldn’t keep it too boring. So here’s a dinosaur that comfortably sits at the the edge of the desk.

Step 20: Bathroom Toilet

Although it was possible to create this compound shape by connecting simpler shapes together, I chose to import this toilet seat from an external source. Without getting too absorbed into the details, I used a silhouette of a toilet seat and adjusted the dimensions according to the proportions of this model.

Step 21: Bathroom Sink

This could also have been created in Tinkercad as a compound shape but I chose to import it as a silhouette and modify it as a 3D shape. This probably took more work than any other imported shape but the end result seemed to be worth it.

Step 22: Bathroom Shower

In Chicon House, the bathroom had much more detail than in this model (a shower curtain could be an example). But due to the simplicity of this project and rules for this project, everything seems to be the way it is.

Optional Step: Concrete Fillings

In this project of mine, I wanted to show how concrete went inside 3D printed concrete walls of Chicon House. Essentially, concrete was extruded in zig-zag lines between the edges of the wall to strengthen the structure.

Final Overview

This is what we’ve gotten to after all the steps. Just one more step to go!

Last Step: Roof

This shape is called “Round-Roof” in Tinkercad. In real-life, we haven’t been able to 3D print roofs for housing structure like Chicon House due to the challenge of 3D printing overhangs. For a solution to the problem, those can be printed separately and combined with the rest of the structure later on. However, for the purpose of this model, I included a roof to give the project a sense of completeness even though it’s floating in the air.


We’re done!

See What It Looks Like

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Ammar Abbas

Ammar Abbas

Innovator at The Knowledge Society