July 16, 2024
Dutch startup Monumental is using robots to lay bricks | TechCrunch

Few categories are as ripe for automation-fueled disruption as construction. The industry is valued at around $2 trillion a year, in the U.S. alone. Much of that work is strenuous, repetitive and sometimes dangerous — precisely the sorts of problems industrial robotics are built to solve. The other thing construction brings is a wide range of different challenges, meaning that more startups can operate in the space without being in direct competition.

Bricklaying robots aren’t exactly an untapped concept. At the moment, Hadrian X is probably the best known player in the space. The U.S. firm specializes in building structures out of large concrete masonry blocks. Amsterdam-based Monumental, meanwhile, specializes in the more familiar red clay variety.

The startup was founded in 2021 by the pair behind data visualization firm Silk (now a Palantir joint). Monumental has already been doing limited pilots in its native Netherlands, including the 15-meter exterior of an office building. Partnerships with 25 contractors have followed, including low-income housing.

I can’t speak much to the efficacy of the system beyond what I’ve seen in some video demos, but can say that the company appears to be tackling the problem from a variety of fronts, beginning with an autonomous cart designed to shoulder heavy payloads. From there, another robot spreads liquid mortar and places bricks.

“At Monumental, we’re working to help the industry meet these challenges,” says co-founder and CEO Salar al Khafaji. “Our agile, intelligent, and adaptable robots and software blend human expertise with robotic efficiency in a way that the industry has never seen before.”

To celebrate its coming-out party, Monumental is also announcing a sizable $25 million round,  led by Plural and Hummingbird, with participation from Northzone, Foundamental and NP-Hard Ventures.

Funding will go toward hiring, scaling manufacturing and diversifying the manner of bricks/blocks its robots are capable of handling.

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