Start-up Zavhy to transform the conservative construction world with 3D concrete printing

About Zavhy

  • Founders: Zeeshan Ahmed, Wendy Volkers and Frits Rooyackers
  • Founded in: 2020
  • Employees: 3 co-founders and 1 employee
  • Money raised: –
  • Final goal: We aim to transform the construction industry towards digitization and automation using 3D concrete printing.

Last year, the longest 3D-printed bicycle bridge in the world was taken into use in Nijmegen. What makes the 29 meter long construction unique is that the architect had full freedom of form when designing to optimize the construction and the robustness. The realization of the bridge was possible thanks to research conducted by Zeeshan Ahmed during his PhD research, which he conducted under the supervision of Professor Theo Salet at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU / e).

Big ambitions

Zeeshan has big ambitions. His PhD research saw it as a way to develop knowledge of 3D concrete printing (3DCP), but he also wanted to put the technology into practice. So on April 1, 2020, he founded start-up Zavhy.

With Zavhy, Zeeshan has a clear mission. He wants to automate and digitize the construction sector and tackle the backlogs that the sector has when it comes to productivity, sustainability and affordability with 3DCP. “With 3DCP, we can build faster and improve the quality of construction. In addition, the process becomes cheaper and more sustainable due to more efficient use of materials, “explains the entrepreneur.

Start-ups and spin-offs from Eindhoven University of Technology

Eindhoven University of Technology (TU / e) is a breeding ground for new ideas based on scientific research. Sometimes these ideas grow into spin-offs and start-ups. This brings scientific research one step closer to society. Every month, Innovation Origins in collaboration with The Gate and TU / e puts an innovative company in the spotlight, which stems from scientific research.

It was not easy, especially in the beginning. “I started a company without entrepreneurial experience. Covid-19 made everything even more complicated. It would have been impossible without the support of my family, friends and colleagues at TU / e.”

The ranking of the MGI Industry Digitization Index proves that the start-up mission is important. Only the agricultural sector scores worse on this digitization ranking. In 2021, for example, only forty percent of construction companies and customers used Building Information Modeling (BIM) software. This program, which has been in existence for more than thirty years, is used in the construction industry to collaborate effectively during planning, design and construction. In addition, the sector emits a lot of CO₂ and takes few reducing measures. Due to this high CO footprint, countless construction projects come to a standstill every year, even though the construction sector in the Netherlands must be emission-free by 2030.

Reinforcement of 3DCP technology

During his Ph.D. at TU / e, Zeeshan was, among other things, involved in a solution for two major limitations of 3DCP technology. For example, steel reinforcement – which provides strength – was lacking in 3D-printed concrete structures. Additives such as fibers and aggregates that improve the material properties of the concrete were also lacking.

In light of the industrialization of technology, Zeeshan developed two systems. One to put steel cable reinforcement into the concrete, Reinforcement insertion device (RED) and a Fiber-reinforcing carrier device (FRED) to add fiber and additives.

The RED system has, among other things, been used to reinforce both the 3DCP bridge in Gemert (the first armed 3DCP bridge in the world) and the bicycle bridge in Nijmegen. His research also contributed to the design and construction of the Milestone 3D concrete-printed house in Eindhoven. “Through these projects, I was able to valorize my scientific research,” Zeeshan says.

Vicious circle

The hard work paid off in July last year, when the start-up secured a REACT EU grant of € 420,000 to further develop the FRED system. Another grant (the MIT R&D grant) of 200,000 euros followed in November 2021, allowing the company to further develop the RED system as well. Both the RED and FRED projects are carried out in collaboration with the engineering companies Van Beek and TBRM ES, which also received part of the grants. “The external recognition that the grants entail was very important. Any doubts we felt about Zahvy disappeared. We were able to show everyone that what we do is important. “

It also helped Zavhy build new partnerships with companies trying to solve similar problems with 3DCP technology. Zeeshan: “The circle is complete now that we have sold the first prototype of the FRED system to TU / e to conduct new research.”

In addition, the grants helped break the vicious circles, Zeeshan says. “Without money, we can not hire workers or build a factory where we can demonstrate our technology. Then you will not come any further. We have really taken steps with this grant. ” For example, R&D materials engineer Taco van Meeterener was recently added to the team, which in addition to Zeeshan consists of CFO Wendy Volkers and CTO Frits Rooyackers.

“The external recognition that the grants entail was very important. Any doubts we felt about Zahvy disappeared. We were able to show everyone that what we do is important. “

Zeeshan Ahmed

Three revenue models

The young company consists of three departments. It develops and uses new hardware and software technology for 3DCP, it contributes to construction projects and creates a 3DCP plant in Eindhoven, where constructions and designs can be printed. Ultimately, Zeeshan wants to provide its system franchise to support the Dutch government’s goal of building one million homes by 2030. By 2025, at least ten other 3DCP franchisees should be working on Zahvy’s system.

Because 3DCP technology is still so new, Zeeshan and his company deliberately choose to cover all aspects of the technology to best support the growth of the 3DCP market. He wants to create a consortium of companies and connect the value chain around 3D concrete printing, so that the problems can be solved together. “In this way, everyone involved in construction can benefit from it and encourage others to think differently when it comes to 3DCP. It’s about the whole process. We need to valorize technology and continue research, but also work with hardware and software. And then apply what we do in projects. We develop the material, develop the system with which the material can be printed, and contribute to design and construction. ”

Start-ups involved in 3D printing in the construction industry are popping up like mushrooms, but Zeeshan thinks it’s just a good thing. “It’s not about my business. I want to support others and together make construction more sustainable. My biggest competitors are not start-ups, but the traditional construction companies. I have to show them the benefits of 3DCP technology and get them on my side of the table. “

Cover image, fltr: Frits Rooyackers, Wendy Volkers, Zeeshan Ahmed and Taco van Meeteren.

This story was made in collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology.

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