Culver City, Calif.-based Azure Printed Homes Inc. will use additive manufacturing and recycled plastic to create tiny houses, backyard studios, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — and maybe one day soon multistory modules.
Founded in 2019, the company is the first to 3D print a complete structure primarily using recycled material. It uses post-industrial glycol-modified PET from bottle and packing producers for its insulative qualities, printability, strength, stiffness and impact resistance.
Azure has produced two prototypes to date using robotic printers while it awaits delivery of some custom components for larger-print projects, including a 14-unit development at an extended-stay hotel.
Sixty percent of Azure structures will be made from recycled PETG with fiberglass, additives and UV inhibitors to increase strength and durability.
The units will meet California and International Residential Codes and be able to withstand snow and wind loads for much of the United States.
While the competition is either 3D printing panels for conventional assembly or erecting a printer on-site to print exterior concrete walls, Azure officials say their design and process creates the first self-supporting shell — the floor, walls and roof — in one layer.
Using a large-scale robotic arm, Azure will be able to 3D print some of its modules, which are 120-900 square feet, in less than 24 hours at the company's 15,000-square-foot factory. The next day, the structure's wiring and plumbing will be installed and spray foam insulation applied. The unit then will get a protective UV coating on the outside, windows, doors and wall finishes.
If a kitchen and bathroom are selected, then the module will take seven to 10 days to complete.
The finished units then can be delivered on a flatbed truck ready to be placed onto a foundation, bolted down and plugged into utilities, which takes in one to three days. Prices start at $24,999.
"The design was made as simple as it can be so the process is quick and easy for everyone and most importantly the person purchasing the unit," Azure co-founder Ross Maguire said in an Aug. 12 webinar.
Azure officials say they can 3D print homes 70 percent faster and 30 percent cheaper than traditional home construction methods. They see their modules addressing problems in a $17.5 billion market dealing with outdated building methods and materials, a labor shortage and a U.S. housing stock deficit of 3.8 million houses.
Maguire, a civil engineer who had a London-based construction company, and co-founder Gene Eidelman, who spent 30 years in construction and development, said it is time for gains in 3D printing technology and material science to replace building techniques that have been costly and wasteful for centuries.
"Efficiencywise, this is huge," Maguire said. "When you're framing a wall and then having to sheath it, waterproof it from the outside, add a roof, a layer of waterproofing, and do all junction details between the roof and siding, you're seeing multiple trades, multiple materials and multiple days and weeks to complete the process. To print all those trades and works so to speak in one go in one day is just a huge advantage."
Azure is getting ready to undertake its first big project. Earlier this year, the company was selected to create 14 pre-fabricated structures in Ridgecrest, Calif., for Oasis Development.
The orders have continued. In July, Azure took its 100th deposit on a pre-order and reached $11.5 million in pre-sales.
Azure has been featured in the Royal Institute of British Architects Journal, and company officials were asked to respond to a United Nations request for proposals for 3D printed homes from recycled materials, which they did.
"The problem we — and others — identified is that construction takes way too long," Maguire said. "It costs more than it needs to and it wastes way too much material, which adversely affects our environment. … It's stuck somewhat in the dark ages, and that's something we want to address."
The RIBA article says construction 3D printing is a sustainable process because it minimizes waste and reduces the number of material deliveries, or even eliminates them with on-site printing.
A growing emphasis on the circular economy and recycled content could strengthen the technology's credentials as a mainstream method of construction, the RIBA article also says.