Swiss Startup Aims to Create Automated Factories with Multi-purpose 3D Printing Bots

Formnext Germany

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SAEKI, a Switzerland-based startup, has announced its launch with a $2.3M seed funding round, focusing on a significant challenge in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry—the slow and costly manufacture of large components. By utilizing 3D printing technology and industrial robots, the company aims to create fully automated plants capable of producing large-scale items, ranging from aircraft wings to construction site installations.

The startup, founded in 2021 by Andrea Perissinotto, Oliver Harley, and Matthias Leschok, is attempting to turn complex designs into reality. The team plans to save concrete and CO2 by developing a method to produce custom concrete formwork in a cost-effective way. SAEKI’s approach combines 3D printing and milling with industrial robots that can print formwork up to several meters in length, promising a more efficient process and unlimited design complexity.

Current methods for developing lightweight carbon fiber elements or topologically optimized concrete floor slabs are both time-consuming and expensive. SAEKI claims to remove this bottleneck, enabling more rapid innovation and growth. Their approach seems to make large-scale manufacturing more accessible, a feat that was previously challenging.

The team at SAEKI emphasizes a collaborative approach with customers, tailoring the microfactories to address their specific needs. These microfactories are self-contained units designed to perform all manufacturing steps and are easily deployable for localized manufacturing. Furthermore, SAEKI is building its first production hub, which will serve as a blueprint for future expansion.

An essential part of SAEKI’s offering will be industrial robots that combine multiple digital manufacturing methods, from 3D printing and milling to inspection, aiming to create a low-waste production process with recyclable materials. In addition, SAEKI plans to offer a quoting platform tailored to the customers’ business needs, simplifying a complex approach currently prevalent in the market. SAEKI’s vision involves a network of decentralized, robot-operated production hubs around the world.

“For vast swathes of industry it’s not practical to own and manage robots that can create what you need quickly,” said Andrea Perissinotto, Co-Founder of SAEKI. “We are at the forefront of addressing this and democratising access to the best tools and creating productive, sustainable and effective outcomes for industry. Long lead times for large components will be a thing of the past and we can provide faster and cost effective iterations. Our comprehensive approach sets us apart – it’s not just about being faster or cheaper; it’s about providing a complete solution that caters to the entire spectrum of challenges, which is resonating well with our customers.”

Investors in SAEKI’s funding round include Wingman Ventures, Vento Ventures, Getty Capital, and angel investors. These backers appear to see potential in the company’s approach to distributed additive manufacturing, which aims to revolutionize sectors from aerospace to construction through disruptive technology, local production, and sustainable materials.

“We’re thrilled to join forces with SAEKI as lead investor of their pre-seed round,”  said Edouard Treccani, Principal at Wingman Ventures. “Their groundbreaking approach to distributed additive manufacturing has the power to revolutionize sectors from aerospace to construction through disruptive tech, local production and sustainable materials. We look forward to supporting them as they embark on their mission to create yet another deep-tech champion from Switzerland.”

The company sits at an interesting nexus between large-scale 3D printing and additive construction (AC). There are an increasing number of firms focused on 3D printing large parts, often using robotic arms. This includes Caracol, BigRep, and 3D Systems in the polymer space, MX3D and AML3D in the metals space, and Arevo in the composites space. Meanwhile, AC is mostly being driven by concrete 3D printing firms.

In a nascent niche, SAEKI is among only a few that seeks to apply 3D printing to AEC. While BigRep has partnered with BASF for formwork materials, it isn’t a major focus at the moment. Instead, we have the likes of Branch Technology, which pioneered the use of polymers and robotic arms for 3D printing walls, and Aectual, which applies large-scale polymer 3D printing to decorative elements.

Obviously, large-format 3D printing is a promising segment, but has yet to fully realize itself outside of the aerospace sector, where it is mainly used for tooling when it comes to polymers. Big, plastic furniture may be a fun gimmick, but hasn’t demonstrated the appeal necessary to create the market for the technology. It may be in the AEC space that it can really take off and, by adding other fabrication processes to the equation, SAEKI may be the firm to make it do so.

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