The digital transformation of the construction industry is in full swing. From autonomous vehicles to drones, increasingly sophisticated machines are becoming a critical part of construction processes and management.
Robots are one group of emerging technologies that help workers carry out repetitive and often strenuous tasks such as materials handling, digging, hauling, bricklaying, and data acquisition.
Construction robots aren’t just hot air, either. In many cases, they help to improve the efficiency, safety, and sustainability of projects – from planning through to delivery.
As a testimony to this value, the construction robotics market is projected reach $7.88bn (c.£5.9bn) globally by 2027 – a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 23.3%.
Behind this growth are specialists innovating an assortment of robotic solutions for the industry – from scaffold-hauling lifts to bricklaying robots.
We’ve picked five promising companies that have shown impressive growth this year and look to double-down on their success going into 2022.
Founded in 2016, this San Francisco-based startup has developed a solution that transforms heavy lifting equipment into autonomous machines.
The company’s primary technology, AI Guidance System, was first brought to market in 2018, and enables existing earth-moving equipment like excavators and bulldozers to function autonomously.
Built Robotics sells a box that contains a high-powered computer, motion and angle sensors, and a laser scanner called a lidar – commonly used in self-driving cars.
Through the company’s proprietary platform, digging trenches, excavating foundations, and grading building pads can all be managed remotely.
There are also several built-in safety features, including an automatic stop button that would revert the machines back to manual mode.
Built Robotics has raised a total of $48m (c.£36m) in funding over two rounds and was named on Tracxn’s list of Emerging Startups 2021.
Launched in 2018, COBOD (Construction of Buildings on Demand) is a Danish company that provides contractors with construction-grade 3D printers to create fully 3D printed buildings.
The company has grown rapidly from a budding startup to a leader in the 3D printing industry, and it now claims to have supplied and sold the largest amount of 3D construction printers in the world.
In 2020, profits grew by almost 100%; and just three months into 2021, it received twice the number of orders than throughout all of 2020.
COBOD has previously made news in Europe for 3D printing the continent’s first one-, two-, and three-story buildings, as well as for collaborating with GE Renewable Energy to 3D print windmill towers.
Just last week, it teamed up with Mexican cement giant Cemex to devise a method of using conventional ready-mix concrete during the 3D-printing process, which would save time and money compared with current 3D printing methods.
German startup KEWAZO has developed a robotic hoist system to automate manual scaffolding assembly.
LIFTBOT is controlled autonomously so workers can continue with other tasks while the robot operates, rather than having to manually control lifts and hoists by constantly pressing buttons.
The robot reduces the risk of accidents and improves working conditions on-site, according to KEWAZO.
With minor adjustments, the technology can be applied to additional tasks such as insulation, painting, and other on-site material transport.
LIFTBOT also collects operational data and provides it to customers via a data analytics platform. Those insights aid planning and improve profitability, and customers benefit from faster, more predictable projects.
In September this year, KEWAZO closed a $5m (c.£3.7m) series A funding round, bringing the total amount raised to $9m (c.£6.8m).
Boston Dynamics is an engineering company that specialises in building dynamic robots and software for human simulation. However, their robotic dog ‘Spot’ happens to be right at home on construction sites.
Spot can be equipped with a variety of technologies and walk around hazardous construction sites capturing 360° images, site progress snapshots, identifying potential hazards, and gathering 3D laser scans.
All this data can be contextualised in construction documents and used to automate insights and work-in-place reporting through Artificial Intelligence (AI) software.
Spot can also compare as-built conditions to design intent within BIM, detect clashes early, and minimise rework.
This year, Hyundai Motor Group officially acquired Boston Dynamics, valuing the robotics company at $1.1bn (c.£833m).
Construction companies from Toronto to London have been trialling Spot this year, and the popularity of the ‘robodog’ is only set to continue in 2022.
Australian robotics engineering startup FBR has developed Hadrian X – the world’s first mobile robotic block-laying machine.
The bricklaying robot builds block structures from a 3D CAD model, producing less waste than traditional construction methods while improving site safety.
Hadrian X is capable of building the walls of a house in situ in as little as a day, according to FBR, as the robot uses modularly designed blocks with aligned cores, enabling easy installation of cabling and services through the cavities.
In November of this year, FBR signed a contract with Mexican construction firm GP Vivienda to use the Hadrian X construction robot to build walls for 2,000 to 5,000 homes in Mexico.
The startup is currently on track to raise $10m (c.£7.5m) to launch Hadrian X commercially.
Main image credit: PopTika/Shutterstock
Read next: Five ways augmented reality is changing the fabric of construction
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