Equipment giant Caterpillar announced last week that it entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with Fastbrick Robotics, an Australian robotics company, to collaborate on the development, manufacturing and sales of the company's robotic bricklaying technology, according to the company.
Caterpillar has invested $2 million in Fastbrick and has the option to invest another $8 million, contingent upon approval by Fastbrick's shareholders.
Fastbrick manufactures the Hadrian X robot — a truck-mounted arm prototype that can lay up to 1,000 bricks per hour. The company plans to release a commercial version of Hadrian in Australia later this year, according to Equipment World.
The partnership will allow Fastbrick to more quickly commercialize its technology while also giving Caterpillar a shot at getting in on the ground floor of the evolving construction robotics industry.
Other companies looking to add robots to the job site include Construction Robotics, whose SAM100 can lay 3,000 bricks a day, as well as Rob Technologies, which developed the Rob Unit — a mobile fabrication robotic arm that fits in a modified freight container.
While robotics are still in the nascent stages of having any significant impact on job-site operations, new innovations show the potential of the technology to improve productivity — in an industry plagued by stagnant productivity gains — and eliminate costly rework.
Caterpillar, in turn, continues to keep its eye on emerging technologies that could prove to be good investments for the company. In October 2015, the equipment giant and other investors delivered $45 million to data analytics startup Uptake, bringing its valuation to $1.1. billion. Caterpillar also formed a licensing partnership with Scope AR in November 2016 to explore augmented reality for remote service and repair, invested in drone software startup Airware earlier this year and acquired heavy-equipment sharing and management startup Yard Club in May.