SAEKI: Enabling Industry to Work Faster and More Efficiently

In the NCCR DFAB, researchers have been conducting research on digital building culture for nine years. Groundbreaking research also gives rise to promising spin-offs that are now active outside the academy. One such spin-off is SAEKI. SAEKI specialises in providing decentralized production hubs for large elements like non-standard 3D-printed formwork. Founded in 2022, the company received the official ETH spin-off label at the end of 2023. Co-founders Matthias Leschok and Andrea Perissinotto talk about what automated production means and where the start-up is heading in the future.

What does SAEKI do?

Andrea (A): SAEKI is a platform providing manufacturing services for the construction, aerospace, and automotive industries. We combine large industrial robots with 3D printing, milling, post-processing, and inspection to manufacture the large parts these industries need daily for cheaper, with better quality, and faster lead times compared to traditional methods. Our vision is to operate lights-out flexible factories that make parts autonomously for the industries of tomorrow.

How are you linked with the NCCR Digital Fabrication?

Matthias (M): I am a researcher within the NCCR DFAB. The research we do in SAEKI is related to the research conducted within the NCCR DFAB. Together with Professor Benjamin Dillenburger (Digital Building Technologies), I for example have a patent on large-scale hollow-core 3D printing (HC3DP). The NCCR is based on interdisciplinary research, and so is SAEKI.

SAEKI Founders FULLRES Lto R Oliver Harley Matthias Leschok Andrea Perissinotto copy jpg

The SAEKI founders Oliver Harley, Matthias Leschok and Andrea Perissinotto. Photo: SAEKI

You are three co-founders. How did you find each other?

M: Our founding team is interdisciplinary, this is very important. Andrea Perissinotto and I first met in 2021 in the Robotic Fabrication Lab (RFL) at ETH Zurich, where two of us met during a project for a large format 3D printer. Andrea helped me integrate some electronics for my large format 3D printing research project and involved Oliver Harley to help us with the software. After seeing the potential of large-scale 3D printing for various industries, and the lack of a comprehensive service to provide these parts to said industries, we decided to start SAEKI.

What are the different responsibilities of the people in the spin-off?

Andrea (CEO) does anything related to the company structure, investor relations, and GTM. Oliver (CTO) handles anything related to software, robotics, and automation. He’s responsible for the software and automation teams who are building our manufacturing back-end and quoting website. Matthias (COO) is the 3D printing expert and leads creation, projects, and product development.

On the website, you write: "Full circle production with one robot". What role do humans play in the collaboration with SAEKI? Are they still "needed" when the machine takes over everything?

A: People will be required for the creative process of design for manufacturing and operating the machines. We aim to make the production process fully automated but logistics, robot operators, and process engineers will always be needed to make the machines run.

You also write that your next goal is "automated quality control". How can a machine do quality control?

A: We are implementing an optical inspection tool that can 3D scan and make point measurements of the part once it’s 3D-printed and milled. That way, the same machine that produced the part can check for dimensional accuracy and surface finish. For most components, a person will still be required to sign off the parts before they are sent to the respective customers.

Can you tell us about a job/project you were involved in and what you did there?

We have built many setups for ETH Zurich. This included building the 3D printing hardware, developing the electronics for the interface to the robot controller, and the software that makes it all work. The 3D printing setup for collaborative robots for example is constantly used by MAS DFAB students today. We build small extruders that are used by the MAS so they can experiment with a different scale.

What kind of customers do you work with now?

M: We currently serve the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) sector with unique formwork for construction sites. This ranges from bespoke column formworks to ribbed slabs. Our customers are construction companies, formwork suppliers, or general contractors, mainly in Switzerland, but we also have initial interest from abroad.

What is the next step for SAEKI?

A&M: We are building the first production facility in Switzerland and developing our machines to start the commercial production of parts. Once the first manufacturing hub is built, we’re looking to copy/paste our approach globally to provide overseas customers with local manufacturing capacity. We want to inform and involve architects and showcase our capabilities in terms of non-conventional design. The first pilot projects for the composite industry are already being planned. Our microfactory is industry-independent, we can produce elements on a large scale for different applications and change the properties of our elements by using different materials.


SAEKI's production hub in Lupfig, Switzerland. Photo: SAEKI

Would you like to stay informed about the next steps of the start-up? Then follow SAEKI on LinkedIn.