The construction industry is a very large industry, yet it has remained laggard in terms of innovation and automation. Zacua Ventures is a global early-stage venture fund tackling world’s biggest challenges across Sustainability, Productivity and Urbanization and backed by the most innovative corporates in the built world. Zacua is led by partners with more than 30 years of combined industry experience, and who have been investing in construction tech for the past decade. They partner with top-tier corporates in this space across the globe and enable or portfolio companies to connect with them seamlessly. With regional presence in San Francisco, Madrid, and Singapore, Zacua helps entrepreneurs to build and strengthen their value proposition and scale their businesses globally, leveraging deep corporate networks. Zacua ventures has been able to identify four major trends that is leading to the adoption of robotics in the construction industry and through their network of industry leaders, they drive value and accelerate growth for their partners and entrepreneurs by providing access to new technology, strategic insights into emerging trends, and unequaled scalability. The four major trends are leading to the adoption of Robotics in construction are:
- Labor Shortage: This is majorly as a result of lack of interest, in terms of construction by the younger generation. The older generation is getting closer to retirement, with no one to fill up their empty roles, which also leads to lack of skilled workers
- Unsustainability: More precisely the production of cement, is one of the causes of global co2 emission. Although the public has become more aware of the consequences and regulations have been put in place, it still calls for the need of a better solution.
- New capabilities in robotics
- New business model
Zacua ventures has published a report on companies, they deem notable in the construction technology space. The report mentions companies that deal on onsite production and pre-fab in the various aspects of building construction.
AUTOMATION IN CONSTRUCTION
The automation phase in the construction industry is not only limited to 3D printing, bricklaying with clay and concrete masonry products to construct brickwork and blockwork. Bricklayers’ scope of work ranges from residential to commercial, from straight walls to ornamental walls, and from structural to non-load bearing walls. Time consumption and lack of labour has 3 companies: Fastbrick robotics, general systems and construction robotics to develop machines that can accelerate this process.
- Construction Robotics: Construction Robotics provides advanced, labor saving solutions proven to reduce on site injuries and increase productivity so builders can improve safety, enhance the effectiveness of every team member and finish projects on time and on budget. They have been able to develop a robot that builds walls and various parts of a building using bricks and blocks. The robot can lay over 3000 bricks a day without making mistakes and of course getting tired. The robot is able to perform these operations with the use of sensors. The robot has a sensor that detects a laser, which is mounted to the wall in a pole system. The robot also measures the mortar and applies it to the brick before placing it. Human input is still required in finishing touches and feeding the system with bricks and mortar as it works along the scaffold.
- Fast Brick: The Hadrian X, an automated end-to-end bricklaying robot, was invented by FBR Ltd. It works as a 3D printer, building brick constructions in place, course by course, with adhesive to hold the bricks together. Because to Dynamic Stabilisation Technology (DST), which instantly measures and adjusts for dynamic interference generated by uncontrolled external circumstances, the Hadrian X can work in outdoor locations. Hadrian X performs the automatic loading, cutting, routing, and placing of all bricks in accordance with a computer-aided design, allowing for the completion of a house’s end-to-end bricklaying in as little as three days. Following a successful proof-of-concept with the Hadrian 105 technology demonstration in 2015, the first commercial version was scheduled to be delivered in 2017.
- General systems : This also a bricklaying robotic company, who actually changes the type of masonry you can lay, it doesn’t lay bricks, it lays messenger blocks which are much larger and more difficult to handle by doing this it actually augment capacity in terms of laying larger structures.
Flooring is the general term for a permanent covering of a floor, or for the work of installing such a floor covering. Zacua has two different type of startups
- Easy flooring robotics: Easy flooring robotics believes that, like mosaic floors, a number of construction contractors that tile floors will disappear from mainstream and will become obsolete. The need for distinctive, seamless, and durable floors grows year after year, particularly in the commercial sector. Easy flooring Robotics is a startup that has created a revolutionary way to build flooring technology. These robots will create a plethora of designs by producing extremely efficient floor casting with innovative materials. It saves traditional execution time by around 50% and eliminates unnecessary workforce.
Dry wall, plastering and painting
These 3 categories are similar and have similar issues, these processed are very repetitve and involve use of unfriendly chemicals. These are very labor-intensive tasks, which causes reduced labor, because people aren’t willing to do the task. Repetitive processes can be easily automated, making these processes safer, faster and more efficient. Some startups like canvas have taking the responsibility of fixing this issues by developing a drywall finishing robot.
- Canvas: Canvas, a startup in construction robotics, has shown a drywall finishing robot. In addition, the firm established its Innovation Partner Program, a creative alliance with six industry-leading contractors that share the company’s mission of “building in bold new ways by placing better tools in the hands of competent employees.” The canvas drywall finishing robot, which can finish enormous areas of drywall semi-autonomously, is changing the way some drywall teams work. The drywall robot, according to Canvas CEO Kevin Albert, concentrates on large expanses, high-volume parts, and difficult-to-reach locations such as high ceilings and corners.The robot’s telescoping mast allows its arm to reach heights of up to 17 ft.The machine can handle the application of the finishing compound and the sanding of it, But human inpus are still required do the taping and handle the more complex geometries. The telescoping pole of the robot allows its arm to reach heights of up to 17 feet. The machine can apply the finishing compound and sand it, but human intervention is still required for taping and handling more difficult geometries.
- PaintJet: Despite the labor shortage, the demand for painting services have continually increased. Painting is tedious, especially when it involves moving from one place to other and it becomes a dangerous activity because people have to climb on ladders to climb on ladders do the painting, come down move the ladders and keep repeating the same process. When developing a robot in this space, one would have to consider Mobility platforms, injection mechanisms, post control when it comes finishing and consistency of finish. PaintJet is a robotics and material sciences company automating large-scale commercial and industrial painting, it is a mobile lift attachment, designed to quickly apply paint or industrial coatings. This allows for more projects to be completed with lower labor costs. The PaintJet unit is designed to fit a variety of industry standard man lift baskets, so no special equipment is needed to operate the system. Designed with the construction operating environment in mind, PaintJet operates by connecting to industry standard equipment already on site, can be set up and taken down in 30 minutes and is mobile enough to be transported in a pickup or small trailer.
- Okibo: Okibo, is automating interior construction. They focusing more on painting so they have a full stack built robot which is able applied to apply paint and it can do it both on roofs as well as on walls.
- Hausbots: Hausbots is a very standard of painting robot, This robot is mostly used for in-house paintings rather than external paintings
Layout is another interesting category that is now automated. Layout takes about 30% of the time of any task being carried out. It mostly involved measurements, which means measuring tools like tape measure etc. It’s mostly a 2 people job that is done manually, therefore it is time consuming. Layout robots ingests the plans and automatically lays it on site, whether it be day or night, therefore reducing time it takes to do it , when done manually.
- Dusty Robotics: Dusty uses a laser pointer in terms of doing the marking, based on the laser pointer it can go in different directions, it can gets the job done on most flat surfaces, it doesn’t do walls it doesn’t do the roofs. The dusty robots Eliminate rework and spot issues sooner. The FieldPrinter prints full scale with 1/16” (1 mm) accuracy, ensuring all installed material is within tolerance. Any improperly installed penetrations also become apparent sooner in the schedule, allowing more time for corrections.
- Civ Robotics: Civbots doesn’t layouts indoors, it works on large solar projects or large infrastructure projects, staking is a very manual activity and this just drops markers where the stakes need to go in and does it at a in a very precise manner so this is more like outdoor. Civ Robotics helps to significantly increase productivity on heavy civil projects by completing tasks faster, with greater accuracy, and enable teams to operate at peak performance levels.
Drilling and fastening
Drilling and fastening are one of the most prevalent applications on job sites, whether you are anchoring, building etc. it requires these two applications. For very critical jobs like curtain walls were fastening become quite dangerous because of the anchor channels, the risks involved is higher. Some companies have come up with technological solutions to reduce these risks and reduce time spent doing them.
- Hilti robot: Hilti Group released new features to the Hilti Jaibot, a semi-autonomous, mobile-drilling robot in 2022. The Jaibot is a semi-automated construction robot designed for mechanical, electrical, plumbing and interior finishing installation work. The Hilti Jaibot integrates with your BIM designs to handle the overhead marking and drilling for mechanical, electrical, and plumbing applications up to 16.5 feet high. It pairs with the PLT 300 rotary laser to keep track of its drilling arm within 1/8 of an inch. Technically, it’s a semi-autonomous system. While it doesn’t require an expert to use, it does require human input and oversight.
- ABB: Elevator installations require anchor bolts in the elevator shaft to precisely and safely fasten guide rails and access doors.Working safely and correctly requires high accuracy and full concentration. ABB has come up with a solution for this by automating the process. The robot’s primary task is to drill holes and install anchor bolts in elevator shafts. The robot scans the shaft wall to determine if there is hidden rebar underneath or if the concrete surface is uneven. The installation system uses an algorithm to calculate tolerances and repositions the holes as necessary.
Wielding and Rebar
Wielding operations is a very expensive operation that requires very skilled operators,that’s why carrying it out using robots is very helpful in construction nevertheless it’s a little bit more complicated because welding involves fire and heating elements and so on safety the requirements are a little bit higher. A lot of Rebar on the other hand is to build rebar cages, and the process involves bending and tying of rebar, which can be done onsite as well as offsite.
- Toggle: Toggle uses industrial robotics to pre-assemble rebar offsite and deliver it in record time, build ready-made rebar cages in factories and they ship them to site.
Most of the robots developed for this process have slightly different kind of operation, but all have the same goal, which is to make the process more efficient, safer and faster.
It is very interesting, that there are various aspects of construction advancing into automation, and no one really knows how far till the whole process is fully automated. Having a fully automated process in construction means, having robots communicate with each other. It can be said that the industry is still undergoing its first phase, which is how to use the current technologies developed to its full potential of solving problems.
The automation of the construction industry is still in a quite early stage, but it’s getting closer and close with time to being fully automated.
Check out the full podcast episode this article was based on with Automate Construction founder Jarett Gross