New York City-based construction startup Toggle, maker of a robotic production process that fabricates and assembles steel rebar, has raised $3 million in seed funding.
Point72 Ventures’ AI Group led the round of financing, which was also joined by "Shark Tank" personality Mark Cuban and Twenty Seven Ventures. Cuban called the system "a game changer for the construction industry." Though the system is designed to mitigate the labor shortage, Cuban also noted that it would help create jobs.
“Toggle is leading the way toward new automated solutions for the fabrication and assembly of rebar using robotics in a U.S.-based factory,” Cuban told Construction Dive. "We’re excited about bringing the next generation of factory jobs and pushing forward advanced robotic solutions.”
The rebar-tying robot caught Cuban's attention because of its ability to automate manual labor-intensive tasks, and he said over the past few years, his company has been following firms like Toggle that are using technology to reduce costs, increase productivity and improve bottom lines.
"Toggle is unique in that they not only help architects, engineers, developers, and construction workers more efficiently complete their projects, but use their technology to do so in a safer way," he said.
The company's full stack robotics and automation system can double labor productivity and increase overall production by five times compared to traditional production and assembly methods, according to the company's website. It is designed for urban and civil infrastructure projects using poured-in-place as well as precast reinforced concrete products and can pre-tie cage sizes up to 25 feet in length.
The Toggle system is engaged on projects including large-scale New York City civil infrastructure, residential, commercial solar and energy storage projects, Toggle CEO and co-founder Daniel Blank told Construction Dive. He declined to mention specific projects. The company ships the products by truck within 300 miles of its Brooklyn factory.
Cuban said he is bullish on the construction industry's ability to incorporate technology to streamline processes and save money.
"As we’ve seen time and time again, when legacy industries are paired with evolving technologies, these industries begin to see exponential growth potential after years of stagnation," he said.
Blank said his firm is working with a limited number of customers and that his team is generally on the lookout for projects that are utilizing a large amount of reinforced concrete with a high volume of repetitive elements like columns, beams and piles, but where those elements may also require variations — whether in dimensions or configuration.
"Our platform works toward combining the productivity level of mass production with flexibility and customization," he said.
Blank noted that the construction industry's evolution toward modular construction methods that employ reinforced concrete made rebar a natural fit for his firm's automated approach.
"Reinforced concrete is the fundamental building block of all large-scale construction and rebar is, of course, a key ingredient," Blank said. "It’s found on virtually 100% of construction sites, particularly those in the large, urban high-rise and infrastructure categories."
And, he added, traditional processes for building with rebar are labor-intensive and can be dangerous for workers, particularly in vertical construction scenarios. Toggle's system picks up and manipulates the rebar, leaving humans to do the final wire-tying.
Blank hinted at what's next for Toggle. "We’ve got quite a few initiatives in the pipeline from academic collaborations to opening a new facility here in New York City," he said.