Union-Private Company Alliance to Transform Construction 3D Printing in the Pacific Northwest

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Construction 3D printing pioneer Alquist 3D has forged a strategic partnership with a consortium of industry leaders, including the Cement Masons and Plasterers’ Local 528, a union based in the Pacific Northwest that trains and represents skilled professionals in concrete and plaster work. Joining them are SKAPA, a Seattle-based female-owned landscape architecture studio, and RIC Technology, a robotic 3D printing construction firm. This collaboration aims to bring cutting-edge 3D printing technology to the Pacific Northwest, marking a significant milestone as the first union-private company partnership in the additive construction (AC) printing industry. Together, they are dedicated to modernizing construction methods and delivering innovative, eco-friendly, and effective building solutions.

The partnership was officially unveiled at an open house event on April 30 at the South Seattle College‘s Georgetown Campus. This open house served as the main event of the Innovation Tour 2024, a groundbreaking construction industry summit and educational training program organized by SKAPA.

Throughout April 2024, the Innovation Tour brought together key players in the construction industry, mainly showcasing the revolutionary capabilities of RIC’s RIC-M1 model 3D printer. This tour demonstrated how industry partners with various roles can seamlessly integrate concrete 3D printing technology into their existing work processes. The spotlight was on the RIC-M1 Pro, hailed as the industry’s most advanced robotic arm 3D printing system.

Launched in January 2024, the RIC-M1 Pro has a wider footprint than any of its previous machines, enhanced automation, and intelligent material delivery system. However, RIC says the new printer is a cost-effective, time-saving, and labor-reducing technology in response to the global housing shortage. Like its predecessor, it uses the paste deposition technology to produce concrete parts using paste feedstock. But its design promises to make the printer’s transportation simpler. RIC also boasts that the new machine can be operational within two to four hours on the construction site, where it can begin 3D printing concrete.

During the open house, participants could observe the 3D printer in action, chugging along in the background. A large screen displayed a model of walls that the gantry system was created, allowing people to walk around and observe the process as it unfolded during the event. Attendees were able to experience AC in action and learn how adopting these new technologies can help them better serve their clients. Even more so, SKAPA owner Lindsay Heller explained that several 3D printed items were also on display, particularly stormwater features like non-infiltrating bio-planters and permeable paving.

RIC-M1 Pro 3D concrete printing at the South Seattle College’s Georgetown Campus open house event. Image courtesy of SKAPA.

As the host of the Innovation Tour, the Cement Masons and Plasterers’ Local 528 has been at the forefront of researching concrete 3D printing for many years. Their decision to partner with Alquist 3D, RIC, and SKAPA reflects a shared dedication to education, training, and innovation in the 3D printing space. Together, they seek to pave the way for a future where 3D printing is central to transforming the construction industry.

Also at the event was Zachary Mannheimer, founder and chairman of Alquist 3D, who expressed his enthusiasm about the partnership with Cement Masons and Plasterers’ Local 528 on a social media post.

He emphasized the crucial role of training programs in harnessing the potential of 3D printing technology, stating, “Who knows cement better than Masons? Nobody! There’s been a long-standing concern that 3D concrete printing will replace jobs from humans. Alquist 3D and Cement Masons and Plasterers’ Local 528 know that the opposite is true – that we can create far more jobs than those lost to automation – if we have a training program.”

Above all, Mannheimer’s sentiment highlights the commitment of Alquist 3D, RIC, SKAPA, and the Masons Union to innovate, empower skilled professionals, and enhance job opportunities in the construction industry. With training programs established in Aims Community College in the City of Greeley, Colorado, and with the Masons Union in Seattle, this partnership is ready to make a significant impact in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Alaska, driving forward the adoption of 3D printing technology in concrete construction.

Contrary to concerns about automation replacing human jobs, this collaboration says it recognizes the potential of 3D printing to create new roles and improve efficiency in traditional construction practices. So far, the evidence has shown that incorporating 3D printing into construction optimizes processes, minimizes waste, and accelerates project completion with better accuracy. This modern approach not only updates the sector but also creates better opportunities for skill development and career growth, ensuring a more sustainable future for construction.

According to Mannheimer, this new collaboration represents the future of construction. However, for it to continue to grow and thrive, he said commercialization of the 3D industry is crucial, and the way to do that is through more 3D structures.

“The introduction of this groundbreaking technology represents a significant step forward for the construction industry, unlocking new opportunities for creativity, efficiency, and sustainability,” remarked Mannheimer.

Alquist 3D founder Zachary Mannheimer, left, and Mike Raymond, Cement Masons & Plasterers Apprenticeship Coordinator. Image courtesy of Joey Neff/Alquist 3D.

Among the speakers at the event were Washington Governor Jay Inslee and SKAPA owner Lindsay Heller. A nationally recognized female leader in a predominantly male-dominated sector, Heller has supported the integration of 3D printing as a transformative force in construction. She points out, “I believe 3D construction is part of the future of our industry. By introducing this technology to industry partners, we help them stay ahead of the curve of industry revolution, ready to adapt swiftly once the demand takes off.”

Changing how to build for the better, that’s the goal of this partnership. Eventually, incorporating 3D printing in construction could lead to more creative, efficient, and sustainable practices, and these collaborations will pave the way for smarter, more innovative building strategies.

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