Additive Manufacturing Strategies

Swiss Chemical Giant Sika Introduces Concrete 3D Printer

ST Medical Devices

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If there was any doubt that additive construction was becoming a serious sector, those doubts should be eliminated now. Sika Corporation has unveiled its own concrete 3D printing technology. Tackling this emerging market, Sika has introduced its own concrete 3D printing system, including material supply, mixing technology, patented print head, printer, and software control.

With annual revenues of nearly $9 billion, Sika AG is a multinational chemical company headquartered in Baar, Switzerland. It employs over 25,000 people across more than 100 countries, manufacturing products related to bonding, sealing, reinforcement and more. The firm has among the earliest and largest to get involved in concrete 3D printing, with projects dating back to at least 2017, when it was involved in the additive construction of a concrete canoe. By 2018, it was winning awards for its concrete 3D printing technology and, in 2020, it partnered with Pikus Concrete to introduce its technology to the U.S.

Founded in 1999 in Utah, Pikus has developed a significant amount of experience related to casting concrete before taking the bold step to adopt additive construction technology with Sika. Now, the firm’s 3D printing subsidiary, Pikus3D, will be the first to deliver Sika’s finished product in the U.S. market. Sika lists its technology as capable of 3D printing up to five meters in size at a rate of one meter per second, with accuracy of less than one millimeter.

An element 3D printed by Pikus3D. Image courtesy of Sika.

Using the technology, the company has delivered a number of projects that range in scale from tables and benches to a “learning garden” at a Galloway Elementary School in Jackson, Mississippi.

Though they have yet to (publicly) jump into the construction of complete homes, one interesting detail to note is that the Pikus projects have much more refined detail than many structures fabricated with other concrete printing techniques. The layer lines look to be an intentional design feature, rather than an unfortunate byproduct of the construction method.

As Sika expands in the U.S. by commercializing its technology, it has added two members to its 3D Concrete Printing team, which is currently led by Kyle Loyd, Executive Vice President of Concrete & Waterproofing for Sika. Lyndsay Castle will be joining the division to manage sales and marketing, while Noah Callantine will manage field service activities and process improvements.

Sika is one of the few established materials and construction firms involved in the 3D printing space. After accomplishing a number of firsts in Europe, PERI Group, which owns a minority stake in COBOD, has been taking its activities to the U.S. PERI Group has annual revenues of nearly $2 billion and employees about 9,500 people. However, both Sika and PERI are dwarfed Saint-Gobain, a $41-billion, 350-year-old firm that recently took over a concrete 3D printing factory from its partner BAM in the Netherlands.

We’re still at a phase in additive construction where firms are more about showing off their chops than deploying the technology in a very meaningful way. For that reason, we’re seeing projects geared toward “firsts”, including “first entirely 3D printed community”, and other applications that are sure to garner media attention. When we see more practical, impactful uses, such as larger wind turbine bases than can traditionally be cast, for the technology is when the real value of additive construction will be discovered by builders on the whole. Given the experience of Pikus in concrete casting, they may be a valuable partner for demonstrating these useful applications.

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