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Last Updated : May 30, 2017 01:50 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

1001 Startup Ideas - 3D Printing Technology for Construction

This 1001 startup idea is to transform the construction industry with the introduction of 3D printing technology.


What is the idea?

This 1001 startup idea is to transform the construction industry with the introduction of 3D printing technology. This technology has proven to significantly reduce construction time and wastage while giving more freedom to create customized and affordable housing.

While most other industries have undergone tremendous changes over the past few decades, and have reaped the benefits of the process, product and service innovations, the construction sector has been hesitant to fully embrace the latest innovation opportunities and its labor productivity has stagnated or even decreased over the past 50 years. New technologies – such as building information modeling (BIM), 3D printing, wireless sensing and autonomous equipment – offer the potential to transform the construction industry.

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Market Definition

According to PwC's report, Global Construction 2030, the volume of construction output will grow to $15.5 trillion worldwide by 2030, with three countries, China, US and India, leading the way and accounting for 57% of all global growth. It further adds that construction is likely to be one of the most dynamic industrial sectors in the next fifteen years and is utterly crucial to the evolution of prosperous societies around the world.

Competitor Analysis

Even though the 3D printing technology will take head on the traditional construction companies, we don’t see them as the direction competition because they both follow entirely different methodologies, one being labor driven and the other being tech-driven.

Companies that have made some headstart with the 3D printing technology in construction are Constructions-3D which has come up with 3D concrete printer and opened it for pre-ordering. Winsun, a Chinese company claims to have constructed complete 3D printed houses in a day and costs as less as $5000 per house. While Constructions-3D printers build the complete house onsite, Winsun makes the individual blocks in their factory and then assembles them on site.

MX3D another technology start-up that is developing an easy-to-use “Plug & Print” robotic additive manufacturing software platform to transform standard industrial robots (six-axis robotic arms) into a large-scale, mobile, 3D printer for construction

Pain Point & Target Audience

The target customers for the startup is Real Estate builders and individuals who are looking at leveraging technology to reduce cost and time without impacting quality. It will also attract builders who are looking to take architecture and designing to the next level with the freedom that 3D printing offers.

The current methodology of construction is costly and time taking, making owning a house dream for most of the middle and lower income class households. We have seen a year on year increase in labor costs, and this trend would continue in future too, thereby exacerbating the problem.

Value Proposition

3D printing that can create a revolution in the construction industry and can give rise to a new segment of innovative and affordable housing. As this construction methodology uses very limited labor and lesser construction material it will lead to faster, better and cheaper construction.

The 3D printing technology builds a house layer by layer which provides extra freedom to architects and designers, as they can experiment with the curved designs and surfaces without worrying too much about cost implications and accuracy of construction.

The main advantage of 3D printing technology is that it allows freedom of design to be a practical option at last. E&C companies can now utilize algorithm-based or “generative” software to optimize the design of buildings and to design unique lightweight beams and other components – in short, to “build what could not be built before.”

3D printing technology offers environmental benefits, too. Being fully integrated into digital construction models and tools, it provides a very accurate method of producing structures, with zero waste and minimal, and costly rework

Business Model

The startup can work both on B2B and B2C model; for B2B the startup should target small and medium scale construction companies to rent them the 3D printers and supply their proprietary construction composite. The startup can charge rental for the printer and sell the construction composite as per usage.

For B2C customers, the startup can tie up some architecture and design firm and provide complete end to end solution for the house construction. These individual houses will give the startup the freedom to show the innovations and further attract customers and businesses.

Way to market

The first step for the startup would be to come up with their proprietary composite construction material and the 3D printer. The startup needs to test the usability and durability of the solution thoroughly and must get a patent filed in the process.

Then the startup should collaborate with one of the leading architecture and design firm to further test the practicality of the product and work with them to complete at least 4-5 house construction. These houses will serve as the testimonial of success, and then the startup should start approaching small and medium scale construction companies to provide design and construction support.

Milestones

The significant milestone for the startup would be to research and develop the proprietary composite construction material and the 3D printer prototype. Once this is done the startup should target to complete 4-5 houses in collaboration with some leading design and architecture firm over next six months. The success stories from these constructions will further boost the business of the startup, and they should start approaching construction companies.

In first 12 months, the startup should target to acquire at least two construction projects from the construction companies.

Investment Needed For Prototype

To build a prototype you would need access to a fully equipped fabrication lab, most of the prominent universities have this facility in house. In addition to this, you would need to raise an angle round of USD 500k for building a working prototype to test your assumptions. Look towards technology and equipment companies for seed funding.

Team Capability

This business requires knowledge of building materials, architecture, metallurgy and mechanical engineering. You would build your co-founding team to have these skill sets at the minimum. Having co-founders with relevant experience will be good.

Investors / Expert Take

The AEC (architecture, engineering, construction) industry has seen good interest from big investors like Sequoia, Greylock, Bain, and Borealis. The ACE industry has attracted over 350 million in investments since 2015 as per CB insights, though most of it is concentrated on the tech or software side. While other industries have been eagerly embracing automation and the autonomation of equipment, the engineering and construction (E&C) sector has been hesitant, thereby building pent-up demand in the segment.

A word of caution is that Seed capital in the construction industry is rare: technology venture capital firms tend to avoid the E&C sector because it is vast and slow-moving. General venture capital firms tend to avoid it because they lack industry know-how. And construction companies themselves are hesitant to invest in any emerging technology. Traditionally conservative and risk-averse, they prefer to wait for technology to prove itself before adopting it. Some of the investors that are active in 3D Printing space are WHEB Partners and Balderton Capital from London, Kima Ventures from Paris and Horizons Ventures from Hong Kong. Investors, entrepreneurs, and consumers all have very high expectations for this new space; it is up to you to make the best use of this opportunity.

In case you are looking at scaling or launching this venture, you can apply for our virtual acceleration program Excelrate on the Yostartups website; it will help you in streamlining and structuring your startup idea. We have limited scholarships and discount packs for deserving startups, depending on the strength of your application, you may qualify for a discount.

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First Published on May 30, 2017 01:49 pm
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