Just as digital transformation has swept through other industries, so the construction sector faces growing pressure to embrace innovation – to reduce cost, accelerate projects and mitigate climate change impacts. SAEKI SAEKI is a Swiss start-up that announced today a $2.3M seed funding round. The company believes it will play a key role in driving change.
“SAEKI was born with the objective of changing how we think about large-scale manufacturing,” says Andrea Perissinotto, who co-founded the business with Oliver Harley and Matthias Leschok in 2021. “Our vision is to transform the manufacturing process by combining robotics with 3D printing, machining and inspection.”
Perissinotto explains that structures are constructed from concrete by using custom-made molds, which are typically made from wood. The process is not only time-consuming but also wasteful since the wood used to make the molds is typically discarded after use. SAEKI has, on the other hand, developed a robot that incorporates a 3D-printer to produce the same molds using recyclable materials. The material used to make the mold can be recycled once it is no longer required on site.
Perissinotto says that 3D printing or additive manufacturing, as it’s known in the industrial context, isn’t a new technique, but its application in large-scale production is still at an early stage. “We focused our attention on this and chose to build fully automated factories that consist of independent micro-factories.” SAEKI’s business model is an as-a-service concept – it envisages customers booking time with its robots rather than buying them outright.
The company will need to create a network of hubs to be able to reach customers on their own local markets rather than shipping bulky goods over long distances. SAEKI is building its first hub in Switzerland. This will allow it to reach customers in Switzerland and the neighboring countries of Germany and Austria. But Perissinotto thinks the potential is global. “Our next major milestone will be to establish more micro-factory hubs in other parts of the world, making SAEKI one of the global players in large-scale digital manufacturing.”
SAEKI is not only focused on the construction industry, but also other industries. Molds are used to manufacture large components and parts in industries such as automotive and aerospace. SAEKI’s robots can switch to printing in materials more suitable for these molds and stresses its speed of production as a major advantage over traditional processes.
SAEKI is still in a very early stage of development. It has spent the last two years working on pilot projects with clients to perfect its technology. SAEKI is collaborating with Holcim Sika Losinger Marazzi to build a new pavilion in Lausanne. This project will serve as an early demonstration of the technology SAEKI is hoping to put into practice.
Nevertheless, Perissinotto believes the company’s funding round will be a milestone moment for the business, marking its emergence from stealth. “The goal is to reach a point where we can have increased production capacity and start tackling bigger projects, moving from a validation and prototyping stage to full-scale production,” he explains.
Matthias Leschok, co-founder of SAEKI, is also looking towards the future. “In 10 years from now SAEKI envisions lights-out factories filled with SAEKI microfactories,” he says. They will autonomously produce complex, lightweight and material-saving formwork in the construction industry. They will also be producing fixtures and tools for supersonic jets, or composite molds for next-generation formula one cars.
The company’s investors insist such ambition is not misplaced, with the round led by Wingman Ventures and supported by Vento Ventures, Getty Capital and a number of angel investors. “SAEKI’s groundbreaking approach to distributed additive manufacturing has the power to revolutionise sectors from aerospace to construction through disruptive technology, local production and sustainable materials,” says Edouard Treccani, Principal at Wingman.