By Danielle Proctor

Pittsburgh-based Advanced Construction Robotics (ACR) is bringing innovative robotics solutions to the transportation construction market and other building sectors. It’s the next step in the long-standing partnership of man and machine.

Last year, ACR introduced TyBot, a rebar tying robot initially designed to bulk tie the rebar for bridge decks. It was developed by Steve Muck, owner and CEO of Brayman Construction Corp. for over 25 years.

TyBot at work.

Using TyBot during horizontal bridge deck rebar installation can cut human worker hours in half. “TyBot is our first initiative to stop the decline of productivity on our job sites while addressing labor shortages at critical points during the annual construction cycles,” Muck says.

TyBot was used at the Koppel Bridge near Pittsburgh; the Central Susquehanna Valley Transportation project, about 80 miles north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; and in Tampa and Orlando, Florida. It will be used this summer at projects in Virginia and Michigan. There are currently seven TyBot robots.

In the third quarter, Muck and ACR co-founder Jeremy Searock will unveil a second autonomous solution for the heavy/highway industry, called IronBot. It carries and places the rebar that TyBot secures on bridge decks using tie wire.

“Both robots are applicable to other horizontal reinforced concrete applications and plans are in the works to make modifications that will accelerate their use in ground slabs for the building market and the precast industry,” Searock says.

Shelby Erectors, Inc., of Davie, Florida, is among the specialty subcontractors that has used TyBot in its embrace of technology. “This doesn’t replace our workforce, it enhances it and supports us during the labor shortage,” company Vice President Jack Nix says.

Union Cooperation

Muck also has forged relationships with union leaders, including the International Association of Ironworkers (IAW). Its members tie rebar for the heavy construction industry, including bridge decks. The outreach has resulted not only in support for TyBot, but also financial investment in the technology by the Laborers’ District Council of Western Pennsylvania.

“We have partnered with the unions while performing many demonstrations for the contractor community at our frequent TyBot roadshows, including a stop at last year’s IAW’s annual training conference,” says TyBot Vice President Carson T. Carney. Most of his 25 years of construction experience has included working with IAW members on complex projects.

At the July 2019 IAW conference, General President Eric Dean said the union’s leadership wants to train its members to embrace the new technology. He explained if their members don’t embrace the technology, others will; the technology is a way to help labor shortages and gain market share by making their members more productive.

Searock notes that autonomous robots can work through extreme conditions, such as heat, rain, and cold, that put human workers at risk. And performing the same work with less man-hours through automating repetitive tasks statistically improves safety performance.

The productivity improvement of man and machine working together is substantial.

“The opportunity to perform twice the work in half the time will be hard to ignore,” he says. “We will continue to lead the way making new robots that will decrease the cost of infrastructure.”

Danielle Proctor is business development specialist at TyBot, LLC. See more stories about transportation design and construction industry technology and innovation in ARTBA’s “Smart Design & Construction” supplement.