Architecture, engineering, and construction involve giant concrete molds that are expensive, slow to manufacture, and often only used a few times before being discarded.
Robots-as-a-service startup SAEKI says its technology makes creating these molds not only faster, but also more cost-effective.
The company, based in Lupfig, Switzerland, is building what it says will be fully automated factories with industrial robots that use 3D technology to create components such as aircraft wings and installations on construction sites.
SAEKI went stealth today with $2.3 million in seed funding led by Wingman Ventures, along with participation from Vento Ventures, Getty Capital and angel investors.
It is currently building its first production center, which will have industrial robots capable of combining digital manufacturing methods, including 3D printing, milling and inspection.
SAEKI says each robot functions as “micro-factories,” meaning they are individual units that can perform all manufacturing steps.
SAEKI was founded in 2021 by Andrea Perissinotto, Oliver Harley and Matthias Leschok.
Perissinotto told TechCrunch that he became interested in manufacturing when he was a child, learning metalworking in his uncle’s workshop and building his first 3D printer at age 12.
He met Harley while building a large 3D printer for production facilities at ETH Zurich, where they both studied and began collaborating with Leschok on a combination of 3D printing and industrial robots.
All three were completing their studies during the pandemic when Perissinotto decided he wanted to leave academia and become an entrepreneur.
SAEKI was founded in February 2021 to combine robotics with 3D printing, machining and inspection. During this process, Perissinotto said he and his collaborators discovered that 3D printing large objects such as wind turbine blades, aircraft and automotive parts is still in its infancy and not yet at industrial quality and scale.
They decided to focus their new startup on this problem by creating fully automated factories with independent robotic cells that customers can reserve.
SAEKI manufactures the large components needed by industries such as construction, aerospace and automotive without having to redesign their machines.
This is a time- and cost-saving advantage for components that are used only a few times during the construction and manufacturing process.
For example, when building buildings from concrete, builders first need a form called “formwork”.
If not used for something standard like a flat wall or ceiling, special formwork needs to be created from scratch.
They are usually built by hand from wood and scrapped after construction is complete.
SAEKI’s solution is to use recyclable thermoplastics that are 3D printed and processed by one of its robots and delivered to the construction site.
It also plans to work with the composites industry, which makes lightweight but strong parts found on airplanes, cars and bicycles, among other things. other things.
These parts are usually manufactured in complex molds created from metal or composite materials. Perissinotto said this creates a barrier for companies because the molds are expensive and take a long time to produce.
SAEKI’s goal is to reduce lead time costs and use their tools to enable companies in the composites industry to have faster hardware production cycles.
Because SAEKI robots operate as “micro-factories”, it means their customers don’t need to buy another new machine or take up more floor space in their facilities.
Perissinotto said this is why SAEKI decided to use the robots-as-a-service business model, as it allows customers to shop with the machine as much time as they need.
SAEKI is currently completing its first pilot projects in the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) sector, with customers using its 3D printed formwork to create bespoke concrete elements.
Its target AEC clients include construction companies, pre-casters, interior designers and architects. Perissinotto said SAEKI is already generating revenue through its pilot projects.
It is building its first factory in Switzerland, but its robots are already operational and have been producing parts for the past few months.
As for the competition, Perissinotto said that additive manufacturing has been a “prominent topic” for years, and while there have been significant advances in technology, market adoption has not fully matched those advances, largely due to the cost of machinery. plugged in.
While additive manufacturing has established itself in the industrial market, it is still in its early stages in terms of large-scale applications, he added.
Companies offering large-scale additive manufacturing machines include CEAD B.V., Caracol AM and Therwood Inc, but Perissinotto said SAEKI’s customers want a different approach.