Cement Giant CEMEX Invests in Construction 3D Printing Startup COBOD

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COBOD got a huge boost today when CEMEX Ventures announced an investment in the Danish construction 3D printing company. CEMEX Ventures is the corporate venture arm of CEMEX (NYSE: CX), a leading cement and building materials firm with over $13 billion in revenue. CEMEX was previously already a partner of COBOD and will now work with the firm to make more materials for additive construction, thus gaining further experience in deploying it worldwide.

The BOD2 printer on-site in Malawi. Image courtesy of COBOD.

CEMEX has also already brought to market a “more fluid and malleable” concrete admixtures line made for 3D printing called D.Fab, which is reportedly more affordable than other mixes for 3D printing. The material is also said to “gain shape instantaneously” when 3D printed.

“The investment in COBOD reflects our customer-centric mindset and relentless focus on continuous innovation and improvement. Working with COBOD, CEMEX developed a customer experience in 3D printing construction that is superior to anything that has been provided in the past. Our innovation efforts position us at the forefront of new technologies that contribute to building a better future,” said Gonzalo Galindo, President of CEMEX Ventures.

“I am proud to have CEMEX, a global leader in the building materials industry, join us as an investor along with our other shareholders PERI and GE Renewable Energy. CEMEX is already an important partner to us. Together, we have already improved 3D construction printing tremendously with the successful D.Fab solution and we intend to continue to develop new, innovative materials to build a better future through material solutions for 3D printing applications that significantly reduce construction costs and time,” stated COBOD General Manager Henrik-Lund Nielsen.

Europe’s first 3D printed three-story apartment building in Wallenhausen, Germany printed with a COBOD 3D printer. Image courtesy of COBOD.

COBOD: A Serious Player

The funding follows an investment from another industrial leader, GE Renewable, which took a liking to the firm after establishing “the world’s largest” concrete 3D printing facility with COBOD, with which it is exploring the additive construction of wind turbine elements.

In the past, some of us have been quite skeptical about additive construction, but have been boosters for COBOD specifically. That has been due to the firm’s stated revenues, repeatable house printing technology, and its investment and distribution agreement from Germany building company PERI Group. Generally startups are often very technology focussed or want growth at all costs.

What we saw with COBOD was that, in a market of cowboys, lies and hype, this firm was taking pains to be realistic about its abilities and the state of additive construction. We noticed this, which is why we took a liking to the firm. We’re not the only ones. By being realistic, down to earth, and delivering, the firm has also won its way, perhaps not into the hearts but at least in the pocketbooks of companies like PERI, GE, and, now, one of the biggest cement firms in the world.

Product development engineer Tilmann Auch, COBOD, supervising the live 3D printing at Bautec

Impact on the Construction Industry

These kinds of strategic investors like safe bets and clarity and its nice to see that, this time brashness and bull didn’t win the day. Instead, it was realism that paid off. Now, CEMEX Ventures is not only investing because the company appreciates COBOD’s down to earth approach. PERI is a leader in formwork, a segment that could be radically altered by 3D printing. CEMEX undoubtedly hopes that, with this deal, it cements a lead in the construction material of the future.

Interestingly, COBOD also has a partnership with an even larger materials company, Holcim. Meanwhile, materials giant Saint Gobain has a 3D printing factory in Eindhoven and is continuing to expand its additive construction endeavors. This investment by CEMEX could initiate a further round of musical chairs whereby all of the large cement companies, from Anhui to Heidelberg, will jockey for partnerships in the 3D printing world. Additive construction is maturing, which is not only great news for COBOD but for the industry as a whole.

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