Mountain View, a California-based construction robotics solutions provider dusty robotics announced on May 10 that it closed a $45 million Series B round, bringing the total funding for its FieldPrinter robotic layout bot to $68.7 million.
Funding-wise, they are well ahead of their main rival, Houston-based Rugged Robotics, and with this funding they can expand their marketing and manufacturing to secure market dominance. Another company in an adjacent space, TinyMobileRobots, was used for site layout, but can only print lines and no other data from a blueprint set or line modeling app. building information (BIM), such as FieldPrinter.
The round was led by Scale Venture Partners and joined by returning investors Baseline Ventures, Canaan Partners, Root Ventures, NextGen Venture Partners and Cantos. The company will use these funds to grow its team, expand its product offerings, and accelerate manufacturing with the goal of rolling out Dusty products to every construction site in the United States.
Scaling the robotic site layout
Series B funds typically arrive after a startup has proven market acceptance and a growing customer base, and in a debrief with ForConstructionPros the day after the announcement, Dusty Robotics founder and CEO Tessa Lau, said it is seeing strong adoption by major domestic general contractors. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, contractors used Dusty’s FieldPrinter solution to print floor plans across 25 million square feet of construction. The robot can handle site layout ten times faster than humans with string and chalk and can achieve 1/16 accuracyand one inch. The robot must be paired with a Leica Geosystems total station that communicates geopositioning data via an onboard prism, and also needs a clean, dry surface.
The robots consume standard HP ink cartridges and can also use printers from other manufacturers.
“We have a standard ink cartridge available through our online store,” Lau said. “The printer can generate many different colors. HP and a number of other companies make compatible cartridges, but we checked them out to see which worked best with our printer.
Dusty Robotics technology enables drywall, mechanical/electrical/plumbing, and general contractors to map onto the floor of a project site data from a building information modeling (BIM) file, replacing the chalk lines traditionally used to mark out wall locations, rough door openings, soffits, suspension points and labels, wall penetrations, ducts, equipment labels, piping and fire sprinklers, room labels, schedules finishes, fittings, offsets, door openings and more.
But according to Lau, one thing holding the company back is the supply chain. Dusty Robotics sources parts and components that are assembled in a final manufacturing process at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View.
“The main obstacle to our growth is not being able to build as many printers as we wanted,” Lau said. “It’s due to the supply chain, as well as capital constraints. With this capital injection, we’re unlocking those things. We’ve had two-year lead times for some of the parts for our printers. L “one of the challengers we had was engine sourcing. A lot of what we plan to do is unlock those constraints, and as you increase your order sizes, you get higher priority from the from the manufacturers.
Lau is also growing his team and has hired a manufacturing manager to oversee both assembly and supply chain, as well as additional engineering staff to scale the product.
The recently released iteration of the robot will also help the technology scale and reach more entrepreneurs through improved usability.
“We just released our 1.0 version with improvements,” Lau said. “This is the first release that we believe is mass marketable, usable by all of our customers. On a site, the foreman is usually the one using the robot, and sometimes it might be a younger, tech-savvy guy, but sometimes it will be the guy who is about to retire. One of the great things we just developed and released in version 1.0 is the ability to work on more crowded job sites. Typical job sites have a lot of stacked material or other trades walking on the floor. You may not get as clear a floor as you would like. We also often work on construction sites with floor-to-ceiling grading for concrete. Our customers want to make arrangements despite the presence of these posts.
The workaround was to equip the robot with the ability to navigate around obstacles.
“Our system can detect and avoid obstructions,” Lau said. “We have a few different sources of information about where these obstructions are to work with. Because we’re a layout robot, we have the ground plane, and that usually includes the location of the slab, the floor and columns. But reshores aren’t usually mapped, so we added a bumper, like you’d see on a Roomba-style robot vacuum. If the robot bumps into something, it will flip over.
Lau said they plan to add more ways for the robot to sense its surroundings, but it currently doesn’t have ultrasonic sensors or cameras for simplicity’s sake. Ingesting visual information would then also require a machine learning process to teach the robot to identify and interpret incoming images or captured site data and reroute accordingly.
Getting started for bot users
While robots automate the printing of lines and pattern data onto surfaces, Dusty Robotics provides human hands-on to help customers get actionable data into the robot. Robots print from common .DWG files, but there are a few tricks to structure the files successfully.
“We usually work from coordinated BIM models,” Lau said. “We help our clients with their BIM coordination and floor layout mapping. We help our customers prepare data for robotic printing and prepare printing in the most productive way. Then from there, our printer is controlled with a Windows tablet. Once you get the data on this windows tablet, you can start printing.
The robot firmware and tablet app are updated frequently and subscribers get unlimited upgrades.
“We are constantly developing software and using an agile sprint process,” Lau said. “There is a new version every two weeks. Then we go through a testing period and go out once a month if not more often. We try to be very responsive to our customers. If any of them have a problem, we try to release a fix immediately. »
Market, pricing and return on investment
Robots are currently used primarily by large general contractors on multiple projects at once. The robot comes in a flight case, so an operator can take it with them when flying from project to project.
“DPR Construction is one of our biggest clients,” Lau said, referring to the Redwood City-based self-employed general contractor. “They have four of our printers and have used them on 16 projects.”
Large national generals running multiple projects simultaneously are a market for the printer, but the addressable market can include smaller generals and specialty contractors, as small as those with project revenues of $10 million per year .
“One of our greatest successes is a single-family residential contractor in New Jersey,” Lau said. “They do a number of the trades themselves and use our robots to do layouts for all the different trades on site.”
Most contractors who can keep a robot busy 75% of the time, according to Lau, opt for a long-term robots-as-a-service subscription that includes a FieldPrinter, custom total station, and tablet controller. A week of training, continuous updates and support are also included. Northern California and Seattle contractors can also opt for a special daily rental rate with full service to ensure project success.
“In terms of construction, it’s not like hiring hourly workers — partnering with Dusty is like hiring an employee,” Lau said. “Our subscribed customer can take this printer, run it on any jobsite, and ship it from job to job in an airline-approved case.”
The return on operating expenses comes from a few sources, including increased speed and accuracy and the ability to reduce the construction schedule.
“If you have something as precise as a robot, you can be sure that the project is rendered correctly,” Lau said. “Communication is also important. One of the things we’ve seen is that when a coordinated pattern is printed on the floor, all the trades work together, which compresses the schedule. It also eliminates wasted time trying to find information, because you just have to look at the work surface and see what you need to build. FieldPrinter reduces material costs because you don’t have to build the same thing twice, so you spend less time dealing with rework. Safety and well-being improve because there are no workers who injure their backs and knees doing this work.