Construction

Switzerland’s first innovative 3D printed showroom rises in 8 days

In alliance with PERI 3D Construction, Swiss construction solutions provider Holcim has completed Switzerland’s first 3D printed building.

Leveraging COBOD’s BOD2 3D printer, this 150 m² showroom was constructed in just 55 hours over 8 days. According to the company, Holcim and PERI 3D Construction are minority shareholders in COBOD.

The showroom boasts 6.2-meter-high curved walls crafted from an innovative concrete mix engineered by Holcim. Comprising 60m³, this blend features reduced cement content yet offers superior strength compared to conventional mortars, underscoring its sustainability and structural benefits.

Henrik Lund-Nielsen, Founder and General Manager of COBOD said, “We congratulate Holcim on the development of the new 3D printable real concrete. For long we have been advocating printing with real concrete and not mortars, as the printing with mortars leads to use of more cement, higher CO2 emissions and costs. We need to lower the CO2 footprint of the construction sector, and this we can achieve by 3D printing material efficient design with real concrete, not mortars.”

A look inside Switzerland's first 3D printed showroom. Photo via COBOD.
A look inside Switzerland’s first 3D printed showroom. Photo via COBOD.

Innovative design and construction

This project originated from Kobelt AG, a distinguished provider of premium construction and renovation services, which sought to establish a new showroom in St. Gallen, Switzerland. To address spatial constraints in its current offices, Kobelt AG partnered with Holcim and leveraged construction 3D printing for this project. Despite its traditional focus on timber construction, the company aimed to explore the potential of 3D printing in construction.

According to the company, the showroom’s interior blends minimalist wood designs with distinctive printed concrete walls, housing functional areas such as meeting spaces, product displays, a children’s corner, a coffee kitchen, and a separate meeting room accessed via a curved staircase. Sleek flooring and oak-themed interiors contribute to its contemporary, uncluttered look.

Highlighting a unique and modern design, the showroom features fan-shaped steel supports and a wing-shaped roof, offering a striking contrast between printed concrete and wood-steel elements. Kevin Böhlen, Project Manager at Holcim Switzerland, noted that the project faced several challenges, which provided valuable lessons for refining future workflows. He expressed appreciation for the support received and thanked Kobelt AG for its trust in Holcim to execute Switzerland’s first onsite building print.

3D printing expands construction horizons

Construction 3D printing has picked up a significant pace in recent months. Last month,  Portuguese company Havelar finished what it claims as Portugal’s first 3D printed house, an 80m² two-bedroom home produced in just 18 hours with the BOD2 printer from COBOD. Completed with architects Aires Mateus, Glória Cabral, and Francis Kéré, this project demonstrates the speed and efficiency of 3D printing in construction. Aiming for carbon neutrality by 2030, Havelar plans to use sustainable materials like earth, recycled materials, and straw, highlighting both affordability and environmental benefits.

Apart from building houses, construction 3D printing was leveraged by 3D printer manufacturer WASP, who partnered with landscape designer Giulio Giorgi to create a sensory ceramic garden for the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2024, held from May 21-25. The “World Child Cancer’s Nurturing Garden,” funded by Project Giving Back and made in collaboration with World Child Cancer UK, won the first RHS Environmental Innovation Award. Using WASP’s 3D printed clay blocks, the garden featured sustainable materials and aimed to support children’s emotional well-being in hospitals, showcasing innovative, eco-friendly garden design.

Elsewhere, Swissloop Tunneling, a team of students from ETH Zurich and other Swiss universities, won the Not-a-Boring Competition 2024 with its 3D printing-enabled tunneling technology. Hosted by The Boring Company in Texas, the competition awarded Swissloop’s Micro Tunnel Boring Machine (MTBM), Groundhog Beta, the Champion Award. This MTBM can 3D print supporting tunnel walls during excavation. Previously awarded in 2021 and 2023, Swissloop aims to make tunneling more sustainable and cost-effective with its advanced technology.

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Featured image shows a look inside Switzerland’s first 3D printed showroom. Photo via COBOD.

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