We have been covering robotics in construction since 2015 when we hosted our first event on the subject, but this year we will be hosting more discussions and writing more about construction robots than ever - and not just because we like to talk about robots. Since we started in 2014, the field of construction robotics has mushroomed, and we see the pace only quickening in the coming year. As companies have proliferated, many of the companies that got their start when we did in the years following are now at the point of wider commercialization, actually finding their ways to job sites, and finding more utility in everything from rebar tying and scaffold erection to bricklaying, drywall, paint, and even survey and maintenance work. It can be a little daunting to sort them out, but it looks increasingly clear that they are here to stay in a variety of capacities.
The Years 2014-2018 Produced a Bumper Crop of Construction Robot Startups
Although there were certainly pioneers like Construction Robotics founded in 2008, we find no evidence of a period of proliferation in construction-focused robotics companies like what we saw in the period from 2014 through 2018 in any prior period. Below is a chart showing founding dates for 30 companies in the sector.
30 Construction Robotics Companies Founded Between 2014 and 2018
Want to see the companies?
Head to the BuiltWorlds Companies Directory and search "Company Type: Technology" and "Company Specialty: Robotics." Members are highlighted with the BuiltWorlds Logo.
When they first launched, many of the products these companies featured may have somewhat resembled high school science fair projects and the path to commercialization seemed fairly doubtful. A recently published book entitled, SAM, by Jonathan Waldman, chronicles the efforts of sector pioneer Construction Robotics to find commercial success for their Semi-Autonomous Mason (SAM). Unfortunately, the book also offers a pretty harsh picture of why innovation is so challenging in an industry that is highly fragmented and has been characterized by short term-oriented organizations with little human or capital resources for R&D. Despite those challenges, buoyed by a sea of venture capital and investment by manufacturers and materials companies, many of this recent crop of robotics companies are starting to show real success.
Canvas: A Case Study In the Road To Commercialization In Construction Robotics
Founded in 2017 by veterans of Boston Dynamics, MIT, and Stanford, Canvas has raised more than $17 million from Silicon Valley venture funds including Endeavors, Obvious Ventures, Brick & Mortar Ventures, and Grit Ventures. Though founded in 2017, Canvas only recently began making its activities public, revealing that it had tested its drywall finishing robots on a host of projects and forming alliances with leading firms like Webcor that have, themselves, developed a strong infrastructure to support development efforts working with startups like Canvas. Representatives from Canvas and Webcor will be joining us on our Robotics and Advanced Equipment Call next week to help us understand better where Canvas is in its development, where the robotics sector, in general is in regard to the industry, and how companies like Webcor are benefitting both the startups and themselves through these types of partnerships.
Canvas is just one of many cases we'll examine throughout the year, as we look to understand how autonomous and smarter construction equipment and tools, robotics, and also 3D Printing companies are all advancing the safety, quality, and productivity of the industry. Many of the companies have already presented, and their demos have been catalogued, but the sector is moving quickly. Companies are adding to product lines, forging alliances with industry partners, and taking advantage of the increased dollars being funneled to the industry to enhance their products. If they aren't already on your job site, odds are getting better every day that they will be soon.
ABOUT BUILTWORLDS BRIEFINGS: