Since its foundation in 2015, French startup XtreeE has steadily grown from additive construction (AC) research at ENSA Paris-Malaquais (The National School of Architecture Paris) to becoming a fully-fledged business with large-format concrete Printing-as-a-Service. Now, the company has announced the deployment of three new 3D printing units operated by partners in Switzerland, the United States and Japan. This brings XtreeE’s AC sites to 12 across three continents, with the startup planning six more by the end of the year.
Previously, XtreeE received funding of €1.1 million in 2017 and €1 million in 2018, with investments from Vinci Construction, Shibumi International (a fully-owned venture fund of Gülermak Heavy Industries and engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti) and Holcim France. The company was able to begin establishing its network of 3D printing units for the additive production of structural building elements. Now, XtreeE is seeking further investments as it aims to establish a global network of over 50 3D printing units by 2025.
A Different Construction 3D Printing Model
In addition to selling 3D printers and services, XtreeE’s “Printing-as-a-Service” platform offers customers a catalog of certified products and numerous digital assistance tools for the design and production of 3D printed parts. This includes small, standardized construction elements with high replicability, including reservation boxes and formwork elements, in addition to more complex parts, like bridge segments and beam nodes.
This is a strikingly different model of AC compared to other companies. While COBOD primarily sells printers to users, ICON and Mighty Buildings print structures with real estate development partners. Meanwhile, Saint Gobain’s Weber Bemix produces building elements itself, which includes a 3D printed stair designer app. In contrast, XtreeE incorporates an additional layer through its online tools and community.
The startup not only sells its equipment and 3D prints architectural elements, but it offers tools that allow designers and manufacturers to develop their projects. Of course, this comes with support from XtreeE itself, whether that be in the form of training in parametric modeling or the use of robotic 3D printing systems. Additionally, project owners are able to connect with a broader community of architects, designers, engineers, manufacturers, and builders around the world. Buyers of XtreeE 3D printers join the XtreeE community and benefit from the Printing-as-a-Service platform.
“Our model is based on a ‘multi-local’ ecosystem, which allows us to efficiently produce custom structural elements anywhere in the world. The challenge is to print as close as possible to the construction sites, and we support our partners locally with our digital platform and our design-build services”, says Alban Mallet, co-founder and managing director of XtreeE.
Also notable is that while XtreeE traditionally uses ultra-high-performance concrete, it is also able to print with plaster, raw earth, geopolymers, and recycled leather. In this way, the company’s technology is not anchored by concrete, known for its high CO2 emissions, allowing customers to, in turn, use more sustainable materials.
AC providers often note that, by using less materials, it’s possible to cut overall environmental impacts. In this case, XtreeE suggests that, when 3D printing a footbridge, it is able to reduce the carbon footprint of the structure by 25 percent.
“The team’s common ambition is above all environmental. 3D printing and more broadly the automation of prefabrication make possible more environmentally friendly constructions, thanks to an optimized use of locally sourced materials, reduce the risks of accidents on site and improve work conditions”, explains Romain Duballet, co-founder and director of XtreeE.
So far, XtreeE has demonstrated the viability of its technology in over 40 projects, which range from architectural elements (walls, columns, façade panels) and infrastructure (water and heating networks, telecommunications, etc.) to exterior furniture (benches, chairs, desks, vases, etc.). As a result, it has been able to establish 12 3D printing units in just a few years. Among them is that of a leading XtreeE customer Spie batignolles, which is now shifting into full industrialization mode with the technology, which includes a dedicated product offering dubbed “EmPrinte,” as well as the opening of two new 3D printing facilities in 2023.
XtreeE’s unique business model, established track record, early entrance into the industry, and its large investors are important elements to consider when looking at the firm. Vinci Construction, for instance, has revenues of €49.396 billion, while Holcim (also an investor in COBOD) has revenues of CHF 21.65 billion. By selling certified 3D printed elements alongside equipment and services, while creating a broader user network, the company differentiates itself significantly, making XtreeE a key company to watch in the AC sector.
Images courtesy of XtreeE.
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