XtreeE, the French start-up pioneering large-scale 3D printing for construction, has begun the deployment of its network of connected 3D printing units. Following its pilot plant in Paris, France, XtreeE will start a new production unit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates incorporating XtreeE technology and operated by its local partner Concreative.
This second production unit is in line with XtreeE’s strategy to structure a worldwide network of more than fifty connected 3D printing units by 2025. The opening of two other units in Asia is currently under discussion.
A business model based on the “XtreeE Printing as a Service” platform
XtreeE was founded in December 2015, following a successful research project associating the Paris – Malaquais school of architecture and the engineering school Arts et Métiers ParisTech. The XtreeE technology, protected by ten international patents, required three years of collaboration between various academic and industrial partners.
XtreeE now offers an integrated digital design and production solution for large-scale additive manufacturing: architects, freed from the constraints of standardized formwork, can design more sophisticated and efficient shapes.
After two funding rounds and the investment of Vinci Construction and Shibumi International, a fully- owned venture fund of Gülermak Heavy Industries and engineering firm Thornton Tomasetti, XtreeE has formalized its business model based on the deployment of a global network of connected 3D printing units. In 2020, the “XtreeE Printing as a Service” digital platform will connect its customers to the community of designers (architects, product designers, and engineers) and 3D printers.
The aim is to provide the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector with new and better- performing constructive systems, to meet the growing demand for better quality, individualized solutions at managed cost and time. The objective is also to improve safety and reduce the environmental impact of construction.
An innovative technology that keeps its promises
XtreeE has already demonstrated the viability of its technology, with more than twenty projects, including architectural elements (walls, columns, façade panels), infrastructure (water and heating networks, telecommunication tower, reefs) and interior and exterior furniture (benches, chairs, desks, vases), including:
XtreeE collaborates with Plurial Novilia (Action Logement group), Coste Architectures firm, and the Vicat cement group to build five social houses close to Reims, combining 3D concrete printing and off- site construction, a first in France. 3D printing, with the use of digital design tools, leads to architectural freedom, reduction in material use thanks to the optimization of structures – with an objective of a 40 to 70% reduction in the volume of concrete used – and the reduction of delays and costs. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2020.
Thirty-two artificial reefs – also used as mooring points – were eco-designed, 3D printed and immersed in the protected marine area off Agde (Mediterranean Sea, France). This is the largest ongoing ecological engineering project at an international level. XtreeE, Seaboost (Egis Group) and Vicathave combined their skills in ecological engineering, large-scale 3D printing, and materials to design and manufacture this new generation of reefs. They will provide habitats and nesting spaces for many species (fish, corals, algae). The reefs were immerged on May 31st, 2019
Created by XtreeE, in partnership with the construction firm Razel-Bec, the pre-caster Saint-Léonard Group, and the architectural firm Aconcept, this connected, movable, and customizable bench is now tested on the site of the future Massy Opéra station, as part of the Grand Paris metro project. It allows local authorities to collect usage data and suggestions via a mobile application, to improve the service.
“XtreeE’s ambition is, above all, environmental. Through these innovations, it is possible to build better and design new products meeting the major challenges of today and tomorrow. While 3D printing makes it possible to reduce both the costs and the overall impact of construction processes, it also makes it possible to manufacture rather unexpected objects, to restore biodiversity,” says Alban Mallet, CEO of XtreeE.
An innovative and proven technology to meet societal and environmental challenges
These achievements reflect the growth of the 3D printing market for construction: worldwide, this market is estimated at nearly US$40 billion by 2027i. In response to growing demand, XtreeE has developed, with industrial partners such as Vinci Construction, LafargeHolcim, Vicat and Saint Gobain, a technology that can meet the expectations of this market.
Moreover, 3D printing, fully integrated into existing construction methods, provides an answer to various societal and environmental challenges. Indeed, while demographic forecasts predict an additional 2.5 billion people on the planet by 2050 (66% of whom will live in urban areas), 3D printing can contribute, in part, to curbing the housing crisis that is emerging today.
Improving safety on construction sites is also a necessity: more than 180 million people work in the construction sector worldwideii. In industrialized countries, these workers are three to four times more exposed to work accidents than in other industries.
Finally, from a resource point of view, 3 tons of concrete are used per year per person on Earthiii. Concrete is the most consumed material after water. With structurally optimized parts, by positioning the right concrete in the right place, 3D printing offers the possibility to reduce concrete consumption in construction by up to 70%. The production of cement, the main component of concrete, generates 8% of global CO2 emissionsiv. The removal of formwork also reduces construction waste.
Today, XtreeE is active on several fronts, from housing projects to infrastructure. Much remains to be done to transform the construction sector that must meet the requirements of productivity, social progress and save resources.