Construction is one of the robotics categories that stand to benefit the most from the events of the last year. It’s a burgeoning industry that might greatly benefit from automation, a point that’s only been emphasized by the fact that the pandemic brought many non-essential operations to a halt. Toggle, Dusty, Scaled, and SkyMul is among the players in the category who have raised big rounds in the last year or two. Rugged Robotics, based in Houston, was founded in 2018 and raised a $2.5 million seed round in 2019.
While the company isn’t actively collecting funds right now, it has begun to test its technologies in early pilots, including collaboration with Massachusetts-based construction firm Consigli. Consigli’s Jack Moran remarked, “We had a client who was quite progressive looking.” “It’s a building where we were in charge of both the core-shell and the fit-out, which was rather complicated — there were a lot of weird shapes that would be a challenge for us.”
Rugged’s self-described “layout Roomba” was utilized to assist in the construction of a 10-story skyscraper in Cambridge, Massachusetts, effectively writing designs on the ground of the 40,000 square foot per floor space. Rugged is effectively moving a significant step from its early research and development mode to commercialization with this alliance. In an interview with TechCrunch, Rugged founder and CEO Derrick Morse remarked, “The layout phase is the most critical step in the construction process.” “Where things are installed defines where things are built,” says the author. A layout error cascades through the entire building process, resulting in rework, delays, and higher costs.”
The team is currently tiny, with just six full-time employees, including co-founders with NASA and Samsung backgrounds. The squad now consists of three robots, with intentions to increase to five in the future. The print dot matrix ink patterns on the ground give construction crews a sense of where the buildings they’re erecting are in real life. The firm charges the construction company through a RaaS (Robotics as a Service) model, and a member of the rugged team travels to the site with the robot to supervise the robot while it executes its plans.
“Our customer demand is insatiable,” Morse said. “We have a number of multibillion-dollar contractors who are eager to work with us on pilots and demonstrations. In the coming year, we’ll be expanding our organization and fleet, and we’ll most likely need to raise additional funds to do so.”
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