Kingston and the Islands MPP Ian Arthur has a new venture lined up for his post-political career, one that sees the former chef and one-term provincial representative entering the housing construction market as the President and Founder of nidus3D, “Canada’s leading 3D construction printing company.”
The current MPP, who announced earlier this year he would not be seeking re-election this spring, said he was looking for a new project that would combine his values as a politician with his desire to shake things up.
“I wanted to start a company, I wanted to work for myself, and I wanted to do it in a sector that I thought had potential for some disruption, but also where I could kind of carry through some of the values and the passions I had at Queen’s Park and… bring it into the private sector and continue to try and do some of that work, not as a public person as a private individual,” Arthur said.
So, the NDP representative for Kingston and the Islands formed nidus3D, a company that uses modular construction technology to “print” houses and other structures. While 3D printing has grown massively as a technology in recent years, Arthur noted that the process of “printing” a new home is a lot more complicated than the typical projects most people are familiar with.
“The 3D construction printing is kind of massively scaling the sort of 3D printers that most folks think of, and switching out the material that’s being extruded. So, in a lot of ways, they look very similar to the sort of 3D printer that you might have in your garage or workshop… But we have one that is about 50 by 50 and 30 feet high. And what we’re extruding out of it is concrete.”
Essentially, what nidus3D “prints” is the concrete around which a house or other building is set. “We design a house or a commercial building… in a 3D file, then we slice* it into the printer software, and then it reads that print file, in the same way a very much smaller one would. You have the printhead move around and layer concrete one layer at a time, on top of each other.“
According to Arthur, the 3D process is able to automatically layer the concrete needed for a building, limiting the need for manual labour: “The really cool thing about this is that it’s the form-free placement of concrete, and so we don’t need anything to hold the concrete in place. We use accelerants and different chemicals to make the concrete hold that shape once it’s been extruded, and we’re able to, with very little labour, to print the walls of a building.”
The specific technology for printing the concrete was developed by COBOD, a Danish modular construction company, with Kingston’s nidus3D acting as distributors of their equipment. Arthur’s company, still in its infancy, has already made waves in the Canadian construction industry. Earlier this year, nidus3D partnered with Habitat for Humanity and several other organizations, to construct Canada’s first-ever 3d-printed multi-unit residential property, a project through which the company built four affordable housing units in Leamington, Ontario.
“It’s a pilot project for the first [Canadian] residentially-permitted 3D structures. So, the first 3D printed buildings that people are going to live in full-time, and we actually just wrapped up printing on that last week,” Arthur said, adding that the project is one he’d like to see replicated closer to home: “We’re hoping we get to continue that partnership and work with Habitat locally in Kingston.”
For their next project, the company will be making history once again, as they get started on their first build in Kingston. “The next one we’re building is a one and a half storey. It’s got a workshop on the bottom and a two-bedroom suite above it. And it’s kind of cool, it’s going to be the first multi-storey 3D printed structure in North America,” noted Arthur.
By 3D-printing homes and other buildings, construction companies can see faster turnarounds between projects, and automation ensures greater predictability for stakeholders.
“We really like to emphasize that it’s incredibly predictable on scope, schedule, and budget. So… because we’re using a machine and a level of automation, we’re able to execute things in very low time-frames without many obstacles getting in the way,” Arthur remarked.
With the cost of goods and services increasing as inflation rises, Arthur suggested the 3D-printing industry can provide a cost-effective alternative to traditional construction, something that can help to alleviate the housing crisis in the long run.
“We’re cost-competitive, certainly, with other masonry building techniques right now. We anticipate those costs dropping dramatically over time. And so, the… promise of the technology and why I was attracted to and why one get involved in it, is that I think it’s going to be an important part of dealing with the housing crisis and how we approach construction in Ontario and Canada.”
While modular homes are just one of the many approaches needed to solve Kingston and Ontario’s housing crisis, Arthur said his company hopes to provide innovation to a sector where change is needed.
“It’s sort of some predictability and some potential cost savings to one part of the building process. And I think the real potential of it is the other sorts of innovations and technologies that you can layer on top of it… We’re already moving forward with adding our own R&D to the process, and designing other components that interact with the 3D printed structure, which, again, simplify things and [streamlines] the building process.”
People can visit nidus3d.com for more information on the company and their technology. The startup already has its first Kingston build in the works with more projects in the pipeline, according to Arthur.