No matter the industry, robots are highly efficient at performing repetitive tasks. We’ve seen that firsthand in the construction industry in recent years with the emergence of bricklaying, rebar-tying, and overhead drilling robots. These robots not only offer consistency, but help to reduce muscular-skeletal injuries caused by long term stress on muscles and joints. A newer robot hitting construction sites is Canvas, a semi-autonomous robot that promises to provide Level 5 finish on drywall.
When set up on the jobsite, Canvas has the ability to spray drywall compound on walls and ceilings and provides a dust free sanding system. The human operator navigates the robot to the specific location on-site and sets the parameters of the work to be completed. After that, Canvas goes to work.
“We designed our process so that the robot does things that machines are good at, while our workers do things that people are good at. Robots are great at repetitive, high work; people are great at having the expertise of navigating and negotiating the broader job site, figuring out edge cases, and so on. Workers operate and basically direct the robot, which then automatically performs a lot of the finishing work,” Canvas co-founder and CTO Maria Telleria told me.
The robot not only provides consistency to the finish application, but the programming can be altered to speed up or slow down, depending on what the schedule allows. It also features an on-board dust collection system and sanding arm to reduce cleanup on-site.
Canvas is currently focused on large commercial and new construction projects in the San Francisco Bay Area. The team has already worked on several high-profile projects, including the San Francisco International Airport Harvey Milk Terminal 1, the UCSF Wayne and Gladys Valley Center for Vision, and the global HQ at Chase Arena Towers.
The company is currently partnering with owners, developers, and general contractors to offer the bot’s services in a subcontractor role, as opposed to leasing or selling the robot outside of the company. The crews that Canvas employs to work with the machine are also union workers.
“We’re excited that our partnership with Canvas has developed in the manner it has. It is creating meaningful Union career opportunities, helping introduce previously untapped communities to the trades, and making the work itself safer and reducing the strain on the body,” said District Council 16 Business Manager, Robert Williams III, a third-generation Union painter, in a press release. “It’s critical for skilled workers to have great resources in their tool kit, and we are excited to be on the leading-edge of technology in our industries by partnering with Canvas.”
As with most emerging technologies, though, Canvas is starting small and has plans to branch out in the future. The company only officially announced its public launch in November of last year. The team of founders is made up of some pretty serious technology folks who came from previous roles at Boston Dynamics, MIT, and Stanford. Together, they’ve raised over $19 million from investors to make their current accomplishments possible.
In addition to eventually branching out geographically, the team at Canvas is also learning from their on-the-job experience to make their machine even better. Currently, the bot is powered by a mix of outlet power and batteries, but they are already working on their next generation platform, which they expect to be completely cordless.
As for pricing, I was told Canvas provides Level 5 quality for the equivalent cost for Level 4 work.
There isn’t much video available of Canvas in action, but I did find a short clip of it sanding, via The Robot Report on YouTube, which you can watch below: