3D printing to get out of the housing crisis

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Right now, the housing market is insane in much of the country – too many buyers are looking for too few real estate with interest rates at historically low levels, pushing up house prices in the stratosphere. Mighty Buildings, a startup based in Oakland, Calif., May have a cure. By combining its patented 3D printing technology, automation and advanced materials including a thermosetting composite, Mighty Buildings prints modular homes and accessory housing units (ADUs) faster and a little cheaper than they cost. can be built using conventional construction techniques. A disruptive technology? It does, but not the way Uber does: Mighty Buildings doesn’t want to displace the construction industry. On the contrary, he wants to give him new tools to increase productivity and lower prices.

Sam Ruben, one of the company’s four co-founders and chief sustainability officer, and fellow co-founder Alexey Dubov, chief operating officer, will deliver keynote addresses at the Plastec West and Medical Design & Manufacturing (MD&M) West in Anaheim, Calif., August 10-12, 2021. They are scheduled to speak in the 3DPX Theater (stand 3511) on August 12 at 12:30 p.m. Prior to the event, Ruben spoke with Plastics Today on the technology and ambitions of Mighty Buildings.

Mighty Buildings began developing its proprietary 3D printing technology in 2017, but it didn’t really hit the public eye until 2020, when it raised $ 30 million in funding. It raised $ 40 million and an additional $ 22 million in two rounds of funding this year. The business model as well as the technology have clearly attracted the interest of investors, and for good reason.

Thermosetting composite a fundamental part of the technology

Mighty buildings
Sam Ruben, Director of Sustainability, Mighty Buildings.

“We created our own proprietary 3D printing technology, Photo-Activated Component Extrusion or PACE, and developed the material, a thermoset composite that no one else uses to build homes,” said Ruben. Plastics Today. “Obviously we’ve seen thermosetting composites used in countertops and coatings dating back to the 1960s, but no one has ever found a way to 3D print these materials in almost any shape and form. way that can be used for just about any aspect of construction. So it’s something really different about what we do. And on top of that, the material is photocurable.

The company is currently able to print prefabricated modules in Oakland and ship them fully finished “except furniture,” Ruben explained. Later this year, it will begin delivering panel systems transported in shipping containers that will require more on-site assembly, but eliminate the need for cranes to install the modules. It has much bigger ambitions, including a 15-unit “neighborhood” near Coachella Valley, the site of the famous music festival. In addition, Mighty Buildings is launching a project involving multi-story single-family homes, as well as townhouses, Ruben said. Its longer-term goal is to become a production platform and build a network of micro-factories in the United States and around the world to produce prefabricated housing where it is needed most.

“We are looking for areas where there is demand and where we can settle down in collaboration with builders, developers and others to create jobs and housing in these markets,” said Ruben. The concept of a micro-factory is part of this vision, he adds.

Disruption through collaboration

While the technology can be disruptive, it is not meant to replace the traditional construction industry. “We believe in disruption through collaboration because our ultimate goal is to be a tool that industry can use to unleash productivity and solve the housing crisis through sustainable and environmental means.” Mighty Buildings claims to have a near-zero waste generation process and is committed to achieving a zero net footprint by 2028.

Ruben also believes the concept may contribute to the skills shortage that the construction industry faces, as does the plastics manufacturing and processing sector. “Young people don’t come into the construction industry anymore,” Ruben said. Plastics Today. “They’re getting into programming or joining the concert economy, and we want to bring cutting edge technology into the building space” to make it more appealing to this generation. Another part of the appeal is the safer and more controlled environment for the production of prefabricated housing. “We are removing some of the most dangerous parts of the construction,” Ruben explained. “Building houses is like the second most dangerous job in America, after mining, and we let printers and robots do it, freeing humans to do the jobs that make the most sense and exploit it. technology where appropriate. “

The “sweet spot” in terms of customers for a Mighty Buildings home is the “missing link,” according to Ruben. “The initial objective is not to go towards prices which are unbeatable at the outset, but to provide affordable housing for nurses, teachers, firefighters, etc. He calls them the “missing link” because they cannot afford to live in the communities they serve, but also earn too much to qualify for affordable housing, which is a bit of an overkill in urban centers like San Francisco. Francisco and Los Angeles. . “An affordable housing unit in San Francisco costs about a million dollars,” Ruben said. “In California, it costs an average of $ 500,000 per unit! “The production of Mighty Buildings as a platform model has the potential to have a real impact on this,” he added.

Hopefully, because this is one area where the welcome mat is definitely causing disruption in its purest sense.


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