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200 3D Printed Houses Planned by Alquist 3D and Black Buffalo

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Alquist 3D is a Virginia-based additive construction (AC) company, specializing in printing affordable, cement-based residential homes. Earlier this year, we covered a story about Alquist printing the first owner-occupied residential home in Virginia — also one of the first such homes in the entire world.

As much of a milestone for the AC sector as that was, Alquist has quickly followed up on that project by embarking on something much bigger: what the company is calling ‘Project Virginia’ — “the world largest 3D-construction project”. Alquist will print 200 homes around southwestern Virginia over the next four to five years, starting with two homes in the town of Pulaski, in the state’s New River Valley area.

A recent Axios article mentioned the New River Valley as one of many new tech hubs that have emerged since the pandemic, while Pulaski specifically has recently gained more than 3,000 manufacturing jobs. As such, the location made a perfect place for Alquist to debut Project Virginia, which the company did on April 29 at a press conference near one of the build sites. Alquist held the press conference along with Black Buffalo, the manufacturer of the NEXCON printer, which will be the system used for Project Virginia.

It’s notable that Alquist used a COBOD BOD2 on the first couple of projects in Virginia, and has now switched to Black Buffalo for this much larger project. Black Buffalo previously made news for uprooting local residents and indirectly causing the layoffs of an unknown amount of workers in Smithfield Township, Pennsylvania, when the company started work on its new factory on 106 acres of land it purchased in the area. Billing itself as a subsidiary of South Korea-based Hyundai, the world’s third-largest car manufacturer, Black Buffalo announced its strategic partnership with Alquist 3D in November, 2021.

Correction 5/3/22: Black Buffalo describes itself as a “New York-based, US affiliate and member of HN family of companies, formerly known as HYUNDAI BS&C Co., Ltd under Big Sun Holdings Group, Inc.” Though the CEO of HYUNDAI BS&C Co., now HN Inc, is the grandson of the founder of Hyundai Group, it is unclear that HN Inc is related to the larger Hyundai Group. It seems as though Hyundai BS&C may have worked with Hyundai Group, but it does not seem accurate to call it a subsidiary. 

“We’re printing right now at roughly ten inches a second,” Black Buffalo’s CEO, Michael Woods, told WDBJ7, a local CBS affiliate in Virginia. “That means that a thousand square foot home with ten foot walls could be printed in 22 hours. …Two days. Two ten-hour shifts. Your house is done.”

In a press release, Alquist 3D’s CEO, Zachary Mannheimer, said, “By 3D printing these homes, Alquist and our partners will be accelerating Pulaski and Roanoke’s ability to harness current [moving] trends and attract new workers to this wonderful community in southwestern Virginia.”

Alquist has plans to print homes in several additional states around the U.S., so the strategic partnership, as this project in just one state already shows, will be a solid way for Black Buffalo to get a foothold in the emerging AC sector. It will be interesting to see if COBOD, probably the biggest competition in the sector, also develops a partnership primarily with one construction firm. The alternative would be that a number of smaller 3D construction businesses emerge, specific to local markets in the areas where PERI Group plans on selling COBOD printers. Whatever turns out to be the case, it seems like real competition is slowly starting to arise in the AC industry.

Finally, the scope of the project illustrates why it’s somewhat silly to keep billing things as “world’s largest 3D printing construction” projects, if only because that can mean so many things. Is 200 3D-printed houses in various areas over the course of five years by definition a larger project than the 100-house community being undertaken by ICON? It’s hard to say, but 200 in one state is a significant amount. So, on the other hand, the prevalence of the phrase’s use does show, in some vague way, how much the industry as a whole is growing. Moreover, 200 over four to five years seems like a fairly realistic goal, and, if that total number is reached by steady growth over the course of the project, it starts to give us a rough estimate of what the baseline of the industry as a whole could look like by, say, 2026.

Update 5/3/21: According to Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Founder & General Manager of COBOD, the reason that Alquist 3D is no longer using COBOD equipment is more complex than we originally thought. Alquist 3D had previously used COBOD printers and were the Danish company’s distributor for Virginia. However, in fall of 2021, the U.S. partner accepted Black Buffalo as a minority shareholder. COBOD deemed this a material breach of its distributor contract, as it could not accept a competitor as a shareholder in one of its distributors. After all, Black Buffalo would be able to gain information regarding COBOD’s plans, expertise, etc.

There may be more developments related to Black Buffalo, which may require a follow-up article. Please, stay tuned.

Images courtesy of Black Buffalo

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