AMS Spring 2023

Construction Giant Holcim Invests in Concrete 3D Printing Leader COBOD

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Additive construction (AC) startup COBOD has been securing investments from some of the most important conglomerates in the world. This includes GE (NYSE: GE) and Mexican cement company CEMEX (NYSE: CX), as well as the smaller but significant PERI Group. The most recent example is Holcim (SIX: HOLN), one of the largest building materials businesses globally, which has just acquired a minority stake in the Danish construction 3D printing firm.

From left to right: Simon Wiedemann, Head of Solutions and Products, Holcim; Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Founder and General Manager in COBOD; Edelio Bermejo, Group Head of R&D and IP; Lars Bugge, Chairman in COBOD International. Image courtesy: COBOD

A Construction 3D Printing Investment in the Making

COBOD has been working with Holcim since 2019, relying on its proprietary range of TectorPrint AC inks on a number of projects. These have ranged from wind turbine bases for GE to the world’s first 3D printed school in Malawi and Africa’s largest 3D printed affordable housing project in Kenya. These latter endeavors were performed with Holcim’s AC joint venture with BII, 14trees. Surely ensuring it has a say in COBOD’s future alongside CEMEX and GE, as well as securing access to the startup’s construction 3D printing technology, Holcim was nearly destined to become an investor. 

Edelio Bermejo, Group Head of R&D, noted: “At Holcim we are continuously expanding our range of building solutions to build more with less so that we can improve living standards for all in a sustainable way. Working closely with COBOD, we look forward to expanding our TectorPrint range of proprietary 3D printing ink.”

Founder & General Manager, Henrik-Lund Nielsen, says: “I am proud to have Holcim join us as an investor in COBOD a long side our other shareholders, PERI, GE Renewable Energy and CEMEX. Holcim is already a very important partner to us and their focus on making cities greener, build smarter infrastructure and improve living standards is well aligned with our mission at COBOD. With Holcim on board COBOD now covers both distribution, applications, and materials in 3D construction printing and together we will be able to shape the future of 3D printing in construction.”

COBOD and the Additive Construction Sector

Naturally, the investment represents further confidence in the burgeoning AC sector and technology, but it is much more than that. Given the large businesses now operating in the space, it may be seen as an almost essential tool in their portfolios. Not only that, COBOD specifically is the maker of the tool for these specific companies. Amid a quickly crowded scene, the startup has demonstrated that it is the definitive leader in AC. Other startups have earned capital raises from venture capital firms and the like, but only COBOD has continually collaborated with its investors to produce real world products at such a scale and pace. 

Image courtesy of COBOD.

Stephan Mansour, Associate Consultant at Wohlers Associates, powered by ASTM International, told 3DPrint.com:

“Investment by key stakeholders in additive construction companies, such as COBOD, further validates the future of the technology for addressing sector pain points and demand. At Wohlers Associates, powered by ASTM International, we are equally dedicated to providing the necessary support and framework for the adoption of additive construction as a common tool to increase project safety, productivity, sustainability, and delivery of high-quality end products irrespective of material and approach.”

3DPrint.com Macro Analyst Matt Kremenetsky, who has been following the AC sector closely, had this to say about the news:

“COBOD is obviously in a class by itself when it comes to additive construction. The company has sold considerably more concrete printers than the rest of the market combined, and it is far ahead of any competitor in terms of producing actual lived-in residences. At the same time, given the company’s synonymity with the sector, we can probably take any especially positive development for COBOD — like attracting investment from Holcim, or its announcement of an investment from GE Additive last spring — as a positive sign for additive construction more generally. It won’t be surprising if other legacy construction giants follow in Holcim’s lead in 2023.”

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

The closest competitors would be Saint-Gobain and ICON. The former is a centuries-old building materials giant. Through its Weber subsidiary, it is quickly scaling up its AC operations, developing specific products and applications. Though it has 3D printed buildings, Weber’s parametric design for 3D printed stairs is a key demonstrator for the potential construction 3D printing had for building features on-demand to match a given terrain. 

ICON is a U.S. startup with perhaps the world’s largest and wealthiest supporter, the U.S. government—specifically, the U.S. military. Like the AC crowd at large, it, too, has produced houses, but it is ICON’s 3D printing of army barracks that appeal to the feds. The ability to fabricate shelters and bases on-demand could prove useful during the tumultuous future of climate collapse and military conflict. 

There are now dozens of other AC startups in the world—so many we will have to keep track of them formally. This demonstrates the progress of the sector, as well as the potential simplicity of the technology in its simplest form. However, COBOD is among the earliest, most mature, most profitable, and most promising. As the AC industry progresses, there will surely be more winners and losers to come, so COBOD’s status as a leader will not go unchallenged.

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