US industry races to invest in rebar-tying robot

A US construction company that invented a concrete rebar-tying robot has received $4m from investors to commercialise the machine, which promises to automate a tedious and labour-intensive part of heavy construction.

The TyBot uses a robotic arm rigged to a gantry crane to find rebar junctions and attach a tie before a concrete pour, potentially saving many hours of back-breaking labour on bridge and other projects.

Now expected to be available in the spring of this year, the TyBot is the brainchild of Advanced Construction Robotics (ACR), a research and development spin-off of Brayman Construction Corporation, a national civil contractor headquartered in Pittsburgh, as GCR reported in November.

To roll out the autonomous robot, ACR created a subsidiary, TyBot LLC, which yesterday announced the close of a $4m note round led by Grouse Ridge Capital.

Investors include heavy civil contractors, equipment dealers, and even a labour union, the company said in a press notice.

"We are encouraged by the strong market interest in our robot and the rapid absorption of our note offering by Pittsburgh institutional and angel investors," said Stephen Muck, chief executive of both TyBot LLC and Brayman.

ACR claims the TyBot does away with a tedious, laborious, unpopular, and accident-prone activity that is getting harder to staff amid a nationwide scarcity of skilled labour.

"In bridge construction, contractors often bid for work without knowing where their deck crew labour will come from, despite it being a critical path activity that can trigger costly liquidated damages for projects that run past completion deadlines," the company said, adding that TyBot works "continuously, day or night, rain or shine, and without breaks or injuries".

Replacing an entire rebar-tying crew, the robot needs just one technician to monitor quality and reload the tie wire spool.

The case was clear for one investor, the road and bridge builder Trumbull Corporation, whose president George Mezey commented: "The potential of technology and especially autonomous robots is too great to ignore and we are thrilled to partner with TyBot LLC and their technology."

The company said TyBot services will first be leased to the heavy civil engineering market from March this year, and in 2019 units will be sold directly to contractors and specialty rebar installers.

Find out more here.

Image: The TyBot uses a robotic arm rigged to a gantry crane to find rebar junctions and attach a tie before a concrete pour (Advanced Construction Robotics)

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