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New Iowa State project will build 3D-printed houses in rural Iowa

Iowa State University recently announced plans to use a giant 3D printer to manufacture affordable homes in rural Iowa.

Earlier this month, the ISU College of Design’s 3D Affordable Innovative Technologies Housing Project received a $1.4 million Strategic Infrastructure Program (SIP) grant from the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The grant will fund equipment and materials, including a 3D construction printer, 3D concrete construction printing materials and components, on-site robotics, mobile CNC machining, web technologies, and virtual and extended reality. The project, when fully funded, is proposed to be $2.14 million, including the SIP grant.

The project will work with Brunow Contracting on a demonstration build as part of a 40-unit development in Hamburg, Iowa, in 2022 as part of the community’s recovery efforts from 2019 flooding.

The school said its giant 3D printer, which features an overhead gantry system with a computer nozzle that dispenses concrete, can build an entire home in a matter of days.

Julie Robison, program manager for the Institute for Design Research and Outreach and community and economic development specialist for ISU Extension and Outreach, will serve as the manager of the project. She will also lead the Iowa Affordable Housing Survey to help compare the costs of the team’s demonstration builds to other affordable housing initiatives.

“Affordable housing is a crucial issue across the state of Iowa — both in rural and urban areas — and this work will aim to help the industry and funders understand how to provide housing in the most affordable and most efficient manner, especially when dealing with disaster recovery,” she said. “We hope that new technologies and more efficient, affordable ways of providing housing will be shared throughout our Extension and Outreach work in affordable housing as a result.”

ISU said the Hamburg neighborhood project will help the team “understand design, affordability, zoning and building codes, community engagement and training” for when the project expands to other locations.

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New Iowa State project will build 3D-printed houses in rural Iowa | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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