The future is here.
At least this is the case for some construction crews with the help of Brayman Construction, a Saxonburg company, and its affiliate, Advanced Construction Robotics.
The companies were named as among the most innovative construction firms in the country for creating an autonomous, rebar-tying robot for bridge construction projects.
Rebar is typically made of steel and is used to reinforce concrete in construction projects like bridges.
Jeremy Searock is the co-founder and president of TyBot, LLC, which is a subsidiary of Searock’s other co-founded organization, Advanced Construction Robotics. Searock said Stephen Muck, the CEO of Brayman Construction, spent 25 years as a contractor, and he had difficulty hiring enough people to complete construction jobs — specifically for rebar tying — in recent years.
“It’s restricted by winter months,” Searock said. “Everybody tends to tie rebar on bridges at the exact same time.”
For Pittsburgh being an epicenter for robotics and artificial intelligence, Searock said, Muck thought it might be a good place to investigate how to involve robots in these sort of tasks.
The robot, named TyBot, is a piece of machinery that ties rebar on bridges.
Searock said they wanted to give him a name close to his purpose of “tying,” but they wanted to spell it more like a human name, such as “Tyler,” rather than something like “TieBot.”
“Our kind of goal here, (for) our first product, is to have robots as an integrated part of the construction crew and prove robots are a capable, reliable member of the crew to help fill some of the labor shortages,” Searock said.
The concept for the TyBot originated when Advanced Construction Robotics was founded in December 2016. Searock said the process of making TyBot a reality was typical of a startup cycle with staffing, renting buildings and creating the first full-scale prototype, which worked on its first bridge project in Cranberry Township in October 2017.
“The robot can do the work of about five or six people,” Searock said. “The key here is that it allows the contractor to use their existing crew to accelerate the schedule.”
TyBot works in unison with the construction crew. A bridge’s concrete deck must be reinforced with rebar, which creates intersections to be tied, and once the pieces are put in place, the TyBot can take care of the rest of the support for the structure.
“(By) using the existing crew plus the robot, you can effectively double your production rate,” Searock said.
Brayman Construction, a member of Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), was recognized as the first ever, first-place winner of the AGC-Autodesk Innovation Awards announced Tuesday during the AGC Centennial Celebration.
Searock described AGC as “one of the largest and arguably well-respected trade organizations.”
“They recognized the invention of the TyBot as a piece of innovation and created the innovation award this year for the centennial anniversary,” he said. “We applied for the award and sort of made it through all the ‘wickets.’ There were five (competitors), and then, in their general contest in New Orleans last February, it went down to three.”
The association also presented Brayman with a $10,000 first-place prize.
“We, of course, hope and expect that rebar tying operations with the TyBot will become the new standard of how this work is done,” Searock said, “and that’s just a matter of time for the industry to believe it’s real. This is the first heavy, truly commercialized robot for the industry.
“We’re breaking the mold here to prove to the industry that robots are real and ready to do work today.”
The TyBot is now available for leasing in the industry.
As for the leasing and use of TyBot, a contractor will call the company and schedule a job to be done, and the company will send the robot with an F-250, a 40-foot trailer and a quality control technician.
The robot is placed onto the bridge with the use of the crane and “goes and does everything autonomously,” according to Searock.
The technician stands by to make sure everything runs smoothly and the TyBot’s maintenance is taken care of, but that’s the extent of the need for human interaction with rebar tying while the TyBot is around.
Construction crews only need to carry, place and frame-in 10 percent of the deck rebar before the TyBot can get to work.
The TyBot production facility is in Allison Park, and the fifth robot is in production today, according to Searock.
“We’ve done several (projects) of different sizes around the area,” Searock said. “(We have) several more in discussion to be booked. We just shipped one of our robots over to Europe to go to a couple of trade shows and received international interest as well from countries like India and Korea.”