The construction industry offers numerous opportunities for new efficiencies from automation. Dusty Robotics yesterday announced that it has closed a $45 million Series B round. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it plans to use the funding to grow its team, expand its product offerings, and accelerate manufacturing with the goal of deploying Dusty systems on every construction site in the U.S.
“Dusty is accelerating the digitization of the construction industry,” said Tessa Lau, founder and CEO of Dusty Robotics. “By bringing people and information together at the right time, we are transforming construction into a digital manufacturing process. Automation is the only way we’ll be able to solve our housing shortage and rein in the growing costs of construction.”
Founded in 2018 by serial entrepreneurs and builders of other successful robotics companies, Dusty said it develops robot-powered tools to address construction’s most painful manual workflows. The company's FieldPrinter system automates the BIM (building information modeling)-to-field workflow through a combination of hardware, software, and services that fits into existing construction work processes.
Construction industry faces challenges
The $15 trillion construction market is rapidly evolving, noted Dustry Robotics. Engineering firms, contractors, and others across the value chain have realized the potential benefits of robotics. It said they are increasingly deploying them in an attempt to respond to the following workforce and productivity problems:
“Construction is rampant with manual workflows—processes where a phone call or an e-mail must be sent in order to move the project forward—or work that must be done precisely via manual labor,” said Lau. “With so little automation in the industry, it’s no wonder that 85% of projects finish over budget, contributing directly to the housing crisis. Our robot-powered solutions automate construction’s manual workflows, increasing productivity across the industry while also creating better working conditions for skilled craftspeople.”
FieldPrinter brings layouts into 21st century
Dusty said its FieldPrinter eliminates one of the most common sources of conflict on construction projects: incorrect hand-drawn layouts using a chalk-line process that was invented 5,000 years ago by the early Egyptians. The patented FieldPrinter automates the process of taking digital floor plans onto construction sites by printing them full-size on the floor.
The end-to-end system can ensure that all trades build from the same set of plans, eliminating errors, expediting conflict resolution, and significantly reducing the cost and duration of construction, said Dusty.
The company said its latest technical advances have made FieldPrinter easier for skilled construction professionals to adopt. The FieldPrinter 1.0 release marks the first milestone of a production system ready for widespread use, it added. New features in Version 1.0 include:
- Printing around reshores or on congested sites using automatic obstacle detection and avoidance
- QR code printing, enabling instant access to construction documents
- Fast, efficient printing including single-pass printing of intersection points
- Real-time progress monitoring
These features are the first step toward a broader vision of delivering the right information to the right people at the right time—speeding up collaboration and ensuring successful project outcomes, said Dusty Robotics.
Leading builders adopt automation
Several dozen contractors are using FieldPrinter on job sites across the U.S., including DPR, Swinerton, PARIC, Performance Contracting Inc., and Southland Industries. In the first quarter of 2022 alone, Dusty’s printers laid out more than 25 million sq. ft. on the floors of buildings—enough to build the equivalent of 25 football stadiums or 31,000 new apartment units.
“We invested heavily in BIM for our projects, and Dusty ensures that all trades are building off coordinated models on a project,” said Henning Roedel, robotics lead at DPR Construction. “We’ve used Dusty's solution on 16 projects across the U.S., allowing our foremen to focus on being the best craftsmen instead of doing the time-consuming manual labor of layout. We’re scaling these printers to be available on our job sites nationwide.”
“For us, the main ingredients are Dusty’s accuracy and layout speed,” said Emmy Guthrie, preconstruction manager at Performance Contracting Inc. “We're also excited about Dusty printing layout for the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing trades to enable better coordination. Thanks to Dusty, we can start installing our work right away without worrying about conflicts.”
Scale leads Dusty Robotics funding
Scale Venture Partners led Dusty Robotics' Series B round. It was joined by returning investors Baseline Ventures, Canaan Partners, Root Ventures, NextGen Venture Partners, and Cantos Ventures. Dusty raised $16.5 million in Series A funding last year.
“Dusty is one of a handful of robotics startups to have identified an acute pain point in a traditional industry and brought a product to market in a remarkably short timeframe,” said Alex Niehenke, partner at Scale Venture Partners. “We are excited about Dusty’s potential to modernize the construction industry and believe this is the right team to do it. We’re bullish on Dusty’s bright future and thrilled to be fueling their growth.”
Silicon Valley-based Scale invests in enterprise software innovators and “cognitive applications.” It said its Scale Studio platform uses a dataset of more than 800 successful startups to give founders benchmarks on their company's “vital signs”—key growth and operating metrics.
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