Alquist 3D & the State of Colorado to Build a Foundation for 3D Printed Housing: Interview with CEO Zachary Mannheimer
No matter how much progress is made in printing with concrete, additive construction (AC) may always be the wild card of the additive manufacturing (AM) sector. So much the better: the more that companies in the AC space can retain the innovative spirit that led them down the path to begin with, the more disruption they should be able to achieve in the long run.
Zachary Mannheimer, the Founder and Chair of Alquist 3D, is the embodiment of this. Although he didn’t start the company until 2021, Mannheimer’s vision to leverage AC for disruption in the US homebuilding industry existed years before that. Now, Mannheimer has found an equally adventurous collaborator in the state of Colorado, the new headquarters for Alquist 3D.
Specifically, Alquist 3D now calls the city of Greeley (about an hour and a half northeast of Denver) its home base. This is thanks to a $4 million public-private partnership between the state, the city, the company, and Aims Community College. By laying down these new roots geographically, Alquist 3D is also doing the same with its business model: Mannheimer has set out on a journey to franchise Alquist 3D, in a push to make the scale-up of 3D printed housing as realizable as possible:
The final piece that makes this venture work is Alquist 3D’s new partnership with RIC Technology, a manufacturer of robotic arm AC platforms based in Torrance, CA. The concept is for employees of Alquist 3D franchises in other states (or other nations) to come to Greeley to learn how to use the RIC platform to print homes, then return to their own stomping grounds to spread the knowledge:
As seamless as all this sounds when you’re not the one doing it, AC is, unsurprisingly, filled with trial and error. One thing that I think sets Mannheimer apart is he’s unafraid to talk about how much progress still needs to be made with AC before it can truly make an impact. Aesthetics are still an issue, something that Mannheimer’s perfectionism recently led him to deal with on a previously completed project by starting over from scratch. But the other aspect, what Mannheimer is trying to address with the franchise mode, is far more pressing. Simply, there aren’t enough companies in the space, and until there are, the business model won’t be optimized:
Beyond the innovative business model, one of the most unique aspects of Mannheimer’s vision is that he places such a strong emphasis on the need for AC in rural areas, specifically. I first heard the CEO mention this early in 2022 when I participated in a virtual event for 3D printed housing, and it has stuck with me since. The idea that a technology for reducing the need for labor power in the most sparsely populated areas that are farthest from the central supply nodes for construction materials just makes sense to me.
Along these lines, the same factors that are likely to make AC and rural America compatible with one another would also make it a necessity for far more support in the form of public spending to be directed toward companies in the AC space. Mannheimer didn’t hesitate when I asked him if the federal government is spending enough on the technology:
Greater public funding will also be called for owing to the technology’s potential for environmental resilience and disaster relief: “The thing that everyone always overlooks is that now that natural disasters are hitting at any time and with great frequency is that we’re going to be spending the next 50 years rebuilding community after community that gets devastated by some major storm. And 3D printed homes don’t burn, and they’re not going to get knocked down in a major wind event.”
With all that in mind, I asked Mannheimer if the US needed something like an Operation Warp Speed for 3D printed houses:
According to Mannheimer, since the problems are far larger than what can be solved by any single technology, AC is not “a silver bullet”. Instead, it is only one component in the toolkit that must be developed to solve what might be the US’s greatest single social challenge:
Essentially, this is what will always set AC apart from the rest of the AM sector: it’s almost certainly the market segment with the most potential in the long run to directly benefit human lives. As the technology continues its rapid evolution, I think that fact will become harder and harder for people to overlook.
Images courtesy of Alquist 3D
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