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Bricklaying robot may revolutionize masonry

By ANDREA DECKERT - 3/27/2014

Scott Peters is optimistic that his company will help bring automation to the construction industry.
 
Peters, 35, is vice president of engineering, owner and technical lead for Construction Robotics LLC of Victor. The company, which employs eight people, began in 2007 with the goal of bringing robotic automation and other advanced technologies to the construction industry.
 
"You don't see a lot of new technology in the construction business," Peters says.
 
Construction Robotics has developed a robotic system that allows masons to lay bricks faster than with the traditional process. The system, called Semi-Automated Masonry, was designed to reduce the physical burden of the job, increase productivity, improve the quality of construction and reduce costs, Peters says.
 
The idea originated with Peters' partner, Nathan Podkaminer. As a vice president for a major construction company in Syracuse, Podkaminer found that construction was slow to adopt new technologies such as robotics and automation, even though the construction process was replete with expensive, repetitive tasks.
 
The Construction Robotics' product is designed to work with the mason, assisting with the repetitive and strenuous task of lifting and placing each brick. The mason will continue to have responsibility for the site setup and final wall quality but will improve efficiency through the operation of the Construction Robotics machine, Peters says.
 
The company says its equipment and process offer benefits that range from providing a consistent production rate and performance to reducing physical strains on the crew, lowering health and safety risks.
 
While still in the development phase, the business has been supported through a mix of private investment and grants.
 
Earlier this year, Construction Robotics was awarded a Phase 2 National Science Foundation Small Business Innovative Research grant to commercialize its robotic bricklaying technology.
 
In October, the SAM Alpha System debuted on a construction site in Victor, working alongside masons on a large commercial building. The company continues to fine-tune the equipment at the site, looking for ways to make the machine faster and smaller.
 
Its goal is to be in full commercial production by 2015, Peters says.
 
Donald Golini has been advising the Construction Robotics team for the last couple of years. He is manager of the Rochester Institute of Technology Venture Capital Fund and chairman of the Rochester Angel Network.
 
Golini says the firm has been working with prospective customers to understand functional requirements for a commercial product, and the early indications suggest strong interest.
 
"The founding team understands the construction industry and also has very strong technical capabilities," Golini says. "Construction Robotics has the potential to truly transform the masonry industry."

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