The construction industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation, with activity driven by an increased focus on environmental sustainability, circular construction and workplace safety, and the growing importance of technologies such as robotics, the Internet of Things, (IoT) and artificial intelligence. In the last three years alone, there have been over 425,000 patents filed and granted in the construction industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in construction: construction 3D printing. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

80+ innovations will shape the construction industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the construction industry using innovation intensity models built on over 232,000 patents, there are 80+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, self-healing concrete, waterproof floor drains, and construction 3D printing are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Smart glazing, regeneration control hydraulics, and floating breakwaters are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are wall surface temperature controls and embossed floor panels, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the construction industry

Construction 3D printing is a key innovation area in construction

Construction 3D printing is an additive manufacturing process that uses large-scale 3D printers to produce buildings and structural components through the depositing of cement or other materials according to a digital model. The technology facilitates the creation of unique architectural shapes and structures that would be difficult through traditional means. The potential benefits of the process include increased speed, reduced waste material, design flexibility, and cost savings.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 50+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established construction companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of construction 3D printing.

Key players in construction 3D printing – a disruptive innovation in the construction industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to construction 3D printing

Company Total patents (2021 - 2023) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
General Electric 44 Unlock Company Profile
Sany Group 42 Unlock Company Profile
XtreeE 39 Unlock Company Profile
DXC Technology 36 Unlock Company Profile
Caterpillar 28 Unlock Company Profile
Sika 27 Unlock Company Profile
China State Construction Engineering 18 Unlock Company Profile
Bekaert 18 Unlock Company Profile
Shanghai Construction Group 17 Unlock Company Profile
Branch Technology 16 Unlock Company Profile
Armatron Systems 14 Unlock Company Profile
Saint-Gobain Weber 12 Unlock Company Profile
Schindler 10 Unlock Company Profile
Stratasys 9 Unlock Company Profile
Vinci 8 Unlock Company Profile
Siemens 8 Unlock Company Profile
Mobbot 7 Unlock Company Profile
BASF 6 Unlock Company Profile
PERI 6 Unlock Company Profile
WobbleWorks 5 Unlock Company Profile
Midea Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Yingchuang Building Technique Shanghai 5 Unlock Company Profile
Shanghai Construction Engineering Group 5 Unlock Company Profile
Carbon 4 Unlock Company Profile
Umdasch Group 4 Unlock Company Profile
Saudi Arabian Oil 3 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 3 Unlock Company Profile
Aeditive 3 Unlock Company Profile
UT-Battelle 3 Unlock Company Profile
Taisei 3 Unlock Company Profile
X Development 2 Unlock Company Profile
WinSun Building Tech (Shanghai) 2 Unlock Company Profile
Vicat 2 Unlock Company Profile
China Communications Construction Group 2 Unlock Company Profile
CyBe Construction 2 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon 2 Unlock Company Profile
Q-Bot 2 Unlock Company Profile
Oshkosh 2 Unlock Company Profile
MR Innovation 2 Unlock Company Profile
Consolis 2 Unlock Company Profile
Maeda Construction 1 Unlock Company Profile
Beijing Huashang Luhai Technology 1 Unlock Company Profile
State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission of the State Council 1 Unlock Company Profile
ICON Eyecare - Management Team 1 Unlock Company Profile
8D Technologies 1 Unlock Company Profile
CSP 1 Unlock Company Profile
Laing O'Rourke 1 Unlock Company Profile
China Southern Power Grid 1 Unlock Company Profile
U.S. Department of Defence 1 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

One of the leading patent filers in construction 3D printing is China State Construction Engineering (CSCEC), a provider of engineering, building construction and contracting services. A significant innovation by CSCEC is the development of a utility model providing a 3D building print job platform. The utility model provides a rectangular cylinder platform that can vertically and horizontally extend, remedying the problem of the inefficiency of cylindrical construction.

In terms of application diversity, leading companies in the space include Bekaert, Vinci, and Branch Technology. By means of geographic reach, leading innovators include Stratasys, a developer of industrial 3D printing & additive manufacturing solutions, and Siemens, a developer of electrification, automation, and digitalization technologies.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the construction industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Construction.

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.