COBOD Profitable and Reports Strong Growth in 3D Printed Construction


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The additive construction industry has a lot of noise and very few signals in it. Danish firm COBOD is sending a signal today that construction 3D printing is alive and kicking. The company, which started a few years ago as a spin-out of Printhuset and secured Peri Group as an investor, has been quite outspoken in its views. Now it’s also disclosed its financial results for 2019. The company showed that it has a “a small profit in just second year of full operation”, which is quite the achievement. The company also says, “Orders for the BOD2 construction printer…tripled in 2020 over 2019 despite Covid-19.” 
Jens Berthol Hansen, COBOD CFO, said: 
If we compare the order intake for 2019 with 2020 so far, we are well above 2019 and we achieved the same number of orders as all of 2019 during the first 4 months corresponding to a 3 times faster order intake this year.No customers have been visiting since early March, but that has not hindered our order intake”. 
Fabian Meyer-Brötz, Head of 3D Printing at PERI Group, added:  
When we in 2018 decided to invest in 3D construction printing, because we believe 3D construction printing will be an important part of the future of construction, it was not only important for us to find the company with the best technology and the most talented people, but also a company that we could rely on. COBOD lived up to all of this, and we are very pleased, that many other companies have realized the same such, that COBOD now is also delivering financial results and growth well above the original projections”.
Clients have included Kamp C, Technical University of Denmark and Saudi Arabian 3D construction firm Elite for Construction & Development. The company expects that, “during 2020, on the back of the strong order intake, COBOD will enter into new applications as well as new geographical markets.” 
Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Founder & General Manager of COBOD,
“2020 will be another exciting year for us, where our printers will be used in applications and markets, in which we have previously not been involved. This broadens up our approachable market significantly and in 2020 we will establish ourselves as a truly global company with printers present in most continents. In addition, the new applications will bring new opportunities and will enable further growth in the coming years”.

Of course, we have to remember that, as a market, additive construction is only a few years old. We’re all operating from a very low base here. It is good news that it seems like one can attain profitability in this market relatively quickly, however. Most construction 3D printing firms do not benefit from consumables sales, since their construction company customers usually prefer to source this cost component themselves. The market for additive construction has had a high interest and as we’ve stated previously a lot of it has been hype and nothing more.

There is, however, actual interest. Apart from the “3D-printed house in a day” media event nonsense, where they forget to invite the media beforehand, there is an actual market here. Dubai is at the forefront pouring gasoline onto the hype fire in trying to become a 3D printing construction cluster. Since 2015, the Museum of the Future kickstarted things by commissioning the Office of the Future, a 3D printed office structure. The Museum of the Future itself, meant to be done in 2017, is now slated to open this year and was meant to showcase 3D-printed construction along with other futuristic ideas. Dubai’s Expo 2020 is more tenuous than expected, of course, and the Museum was meant to be a centerpiece. Nonetheless, it is telling that the main proponent in kickstarting the additive construction trend is a city-state that has seen more construction and rapid development than almost anywhere else in the world over the past decades. It is also telling that one museum project could have so much influence on construction 3D printing development.

3D-printed construction is a part of the UAE city’s future development plans. The country has stated that it wishes for a quarter of all new buildings to be 3D printed by 2025. In the latest publications, the date has been moved to 2030, but that amount of time is just an instant in the construction industry. Acciona is opening a center for construction in Dubai; AI Build will be making larger polymer structures there; and the “largest 3D-printed building” was printed there. Dubai will be the hub for additive construction, that much is almost certain now as the brash city-state has been investing and pushing the technology almost by itself along with the startups in the industry. But, will 3D-printed construction actually take off?

Given the number of projects all over the world, we can see that, so far, there is at least real money in this part of our industry. Orders are coming in to COBOD, CyBe, Apis, WASP and other suppliers. This is not a pure hype market-like internet-era bubble where investor money went into pipe dreams. These printers cost money and construction companies are purchasing them to make formwork, parts for subway systems, rooms, buildings, roundabouts, and one story (thank god) buildings.

Reinforcement is still a problem, but researchers are working on metal and polymer ways of reinforcing prints. I personally worry about printing outside as problems with temperature and humidity changes, as well as things such as rain and debris between layers could cause havoc on 3D-printed building projects outdoors. I still think that printing formwork inside, as BAM is doing in the Netherlands, would be much easier to control and create safer structures. As this industry evolves it will probably surprise us as to what it will actually be used for.

Much of the interior of contemporary structures can be made offsite, with entire living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens all coming preinstalled. Modern construction sites often have relatively few onsite employees and a lot can be done in housing factories. If we look at that paradigm, a formwork fabricating 3D printer may have more value. Without truly new architecture that takes advantage of these new technologies, there won’t be a need for 3D-printed construction, aside from the general marketing and promotion of Dubai. So far, this event, plus the 24-hour house PR releases, have—along with “dream a little dream” renderings from architects—driven awareness of this part of our industry. But, just because its hyped doesn’t mean it won’t happen. In this case, we may yet see the dawn of an additive construction era.

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