Friday, December 29, 2017

Robot Brickmasons, a Robotic Bricklaying Stock and Travel Tip Critiques

The construction biz went through its energy revolution when machines replaced animal and human muscle power but has been rather stagnant since. There is a lot of money to be made if one can raise productivity in the sector.

And as a side note, for what its worth I had the same "the Rolex could get you killed in certain locales" reaction to the Bloomberg piece.

From Nanalyze:
An article by Bloomberg a few days ago titled Want to Stay Safe While Traveling? Wear a Rolex was probably the worst piece of travel advice we’ve ever seen. Among all the vices that our closely knit team of writers, researchers, and MBAs like to dabble in, the one that we find the most rewarding is travelling the world to have adventures while trying not to get killed or thrown in jail for longer than 24 hours. In a fair number of places we’ve been, wearing a Rolex is a sure way to get shanked. One country that might fall into the category of “don’t wear a Rolex while traveling to” is Bangladesh. When traveling there, you will encounter the friendliest people on the entire planet and structures like these sprinkled all over the country:
Source: Al Jazeera
Those smoke stacks are brick kilns, and 8,000 of them across Bangladesh are responsible for a great deal of pollution, but also serve an important purpose. They provide the building blocks needed to assemble sweat factories for first world countries. As it turns out, bricks are big business everywhere.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there are 64,370 brickmasons and blockmasons working in the U.S. that are paid an average salary of $53,440. Back of the napkin math puts the total spend on bricklaying in the United States at around $3.4 billion. Given all the focus we’ve seen lately on the digitization of the construction industry, it’s not a surprise to see some companies looking at creating robotic bricklayers. The first company we’re going to look at is a private company called Construction Robotics.

Founded in 2008, New York startup Construction Robotics has taken in just $75,000 in funding to develop the “first commercially available bricklaying robot for onsite masonry construction”. The robot’s name is SAM100, SAM being short for Semi-Automated Mason, and with an expected labor savings of around 50%, it’s no surprise to see that SAM100 is already hard at work. SAM100 is a collaborative robot (also called COBOT) which increases your bricklayers productivity by 3-5X while reducing lifting by 80%. According to a customer testimonial, “SAM can lay over 2,000 bricks a day in comparison to the average 400 laid per mason“. While that may be the case, it’s also important to mention that SAM can only operate in a straight line. Consequently, it is most useful for long walls.

The idea of a robot laying bricks is easy to conceptualize, until you bring mortar into the picture. In the case of SAM100, it coats the brick with mortar first, then places it. Here’s a good video showing how this propane-powered bricklaying robot works.

While SAM100 sounds promising, our next company is more interesting to investors for several reasons. Firstly, it’s publicly traded so you can get a piece of this robotic bricklaying action. Secondly, it’s backed by a giant construction equipment company you may have heard of called Caterpillar. Since it’s an Australian company, and half of our readers hail from ‘Murica, we’ve converted everything to USD for you.

Founded in 2015, Australian company Fastbrick Robotics (ASX:FBR) took in $10 million in funding before a November 2015 IPO that took place through a “reverse takeover” of an existing company shell that was already being traded on the Australian Exchange. The offering was oversubscribed and raised $4.41 million at 1.53 cents a share. Fast forward to today and we see those shares are now worth 15.7 cents giving investors a return of about +926% in just two years. The question is, just what happened in the past several years that merited such an astronomical increase?...

Previously on the brick beat:
September 2013
Dear Mr. President, Robots CAN Repair Roads (GOOG)

Yesterday we posted "Obama On Infrastructure: 'A Robot Can't Build A Road'" with links to this rather amazing machine:

The Tiger Stone laying a brick road

FT Alphaville linked to us in this morning's "Further Reading" post - Robots building roads despite the doubters.
And this provoked a comment from an FT Alphaville fan:
Willem de Leeuw | September 16 9:07am | Permalink "Robots building roads despite the doubters."

That's not a robot. Brick road laying machines may be new but tarmac laying machines are not. 
He's right of course, the machine pictured is not a robot. It would more correctly be referred to as a "Semi-autonomous, put-ten-bricklayers-out-of-work automated road building device.

But jeez Louise, I know it's not a robot and Alphaville's knows it's not a robot and our readers know it's not a robot and they also know I was using a shorthand way to point up the ahhh, labor saving, aspect.

there is more to the story.

From Motherboard:

Hey President Obama, Robots Can Repair Roads