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SAEKI's 'Microfactories' Facilitate Large-Scale Manufacturing Expansion

최종 수정일: 2023년 8월 23일

August 9th, 2023

The architecture, engineering, and construction sectors often rely on large concrete molds, which are costly, slow to produce, and frequently used only a handful of times before disposal. Start-up SAEKI, offering Robots-as-a-Service, claims their technology not only accelerates the creation of these molds but also enhances cost-effectiveness. Headquartered in Lupfig, Switzerland, the company is constructing fully automated plants featuring industrial robots that leverage 3D technology to craft components such as aircraft wings and construction site installations.

Emerging from stealth mode, SAEKI has launched with $2.3 million in seed funding, led by Wingman Ventures, and featuring participation from Vento Ventures, Getty Capital, and angel investors.

SAEKI is currently developing its inaugural production hub, housing industrial robots equipped to blend digital manufacturing techniques like 3D printing, milling, and inspection. Each robot serves as a "microfactory," an autonomous unit capable of completing all manufacturing stages.

Founded in 2021 by Andrea Perissinotto, Oliver Harley, and Matthias Leschok, SAEKI's journey began with Perissinotto's childhood fascination with manufacturing, honing metalworking skills in his uncle's workshop and constructing his first 3D printer at age 12. Collaborating with Harley, the duo met during their tenure at ETH Zurich, where they were both building a large 3D printer for the maker space. Their synergy extended to include Leschok, aiming to fuse 3D printing and industrial robots.

During their studies amid the pandemic, Perissinotto opted to transition from academia to entrepreneurship, resulting in SAEKI's February 2021 foundation. The company's focus on amalgamating robotics, 3D printing, machining, and inspection emerged during this period. Perissinotto noted that large-scale 3D printing, such as for wind turbine blades, aircraft, and vehicle parts, was still in developmental stages, lacking the quality and scale required for industry standards. Consequently, the startup's pivot centered on addressing this challenge through the creation of fully automated, bookable robotic factories.

SAEKI addresses the needs of industries such as construction, aerospace, and automotive by producing large-scale components without necessitating machine retooling. This offers significant time and cost savings for components used sporadically during the construction and manufacturing processes.

For instance, constructing concrete buildings requires custom molds known as "formwork." Specialized formwork needs are usually met by handcrafting wooden molds that are discarded post-construction. SAEKI adopts a solution involving recyclable thermoplastics 3D printed and processed by their robots, then delivered to construction sites.

The company also intends to collaborate with the composites industry, responsible for crafting lightweight yet robust parts seen in aircraft, cars, and bicycles, among other items. The industry often employs intricate molds crafted from metal or composite materials, leading to cost and time bottlenecks. SAEKI aims to streamline the process, reducing lead times and enabling faster hardware production cycles for composites manufacturers.

Leveraging its robots as "microfactories," SAEKI offers customers the advantage of avoiding new machinery purchases or increased floor space consumption. This prompted the adoption of a Robots-as-a-Service model, allowing customers to procure machine usage based on their needs.

SAEKI is currently finalizing initial pilot projects in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector. Clients are utilizing SAEKI's 3D printed formwork to craft bespoke concrete elements. The company's target AEC clientele encompasses construction firms, pre-casters, interior designers, and architects.

Perissinotto revealed SAEKI is already generating revenue through pilot projects and constructing its maiden factory in Switzerland. The robots have been operational for several months, producing components.

Regarding competition, Perissinotto acknowledges that additive manufacturing has dominated discussions for years, yet market acceptance hasn't matched the technological advancements due to machinery costs. Although additive manufacturing has gained traction in the industrial sector, it's still in its infancy concerning large-scale applications. Companies like CEAD B.V., Caracol AM, and Therwood Inc. offer large-scale additive manufacturing solutions. However, SAEKI's approach aligns better with customer desires.

Perissinotto stated, "What we consistently hear from people and companies is a desire for faster, more sustainable solutions for their parts. Merely offering savings through a multi-million dollar machine that requires extensive space and additional resources, including hiring personnel well-versed in new processes and materials, is not appealing to them.

Source: TechCrunch

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