Renovate Robotics, a New York-based startup, is developing a robotics solution to the ongoing labor shortage in the roofing industry. The company is seeking beta testers for its asphalt shingle-installing robot, which has the potential to transform the industry by addressing safety concerns, enhancing efficiency, and reducing costs.
While there have been advancements in robotic technology for tasks like adhesive application, drone usage for measurements, and assessments, the field of roofing has lacked significant automation. Renovate Robotics is looking to change that narrative by introducing a robot that can install asphalt shingles.
The concept of a roofing robot emerged from founder and CEO Andy Stulc’s personal experience. Growing up in a family of construction industry workers and later pursuing a career in mechanical engineering, Stulc identified the labor shortage in the roofing sector as a pain point. Inspired by the repetitive and hazardous nature of roofing work, he envisioned the potential for a robot to revolutionize the industry.
To bring his vision to life, Stulc worked on the robot’s design during the pandemic. In February 2022, Renovate Robotics secured its first investor, venture capital fund SOSV. Dylan Crow, who was impressed by the idea, left SOSV to join Renovate Robotics as co-founder and COO. The company has also received $2.5 million in pre-seed funding from various sources, enabling them to expand their team and prepare for pilot testing later this year.
The roofing robot developed by Renovate Robotics utilizes a winch system and sensors to navigate roofs. It moves along wires attached to anchor points, similar to overhead cameras in stadiums. The robot unloads shingles from an internal hopper, nails them down, and proceeds to the next spot. While the initial version is best suited for roofs with extensive square footage and fewer complexities, future models are expected to handle more intricate designs.
The primary goals of the roofing robot are to address the labor shortage, enhance safety, and improve installation speed and accuracy. Roofing is considered one of the most dangerous occupations, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By replacing human workers with robots, Renovate Robotics aims to reduce the risk of injuries and fatalities. The robot itself is designed with safety in mind, incorporating features such as a tether for added security.
In addition to safety benefits, the robot’s software assists in generating shingle layouts and nail locations, ensuring precise and properly installed roofing materials. This data can be reviewed by contractors to address any potential issues promptly. With the robot’s assistance, roofers can significantly increase their productivity, potentially doubling the number of projects and revenue generated.
While Renovate Robotics acknowledges the challenges ahead, such as adapting the robot to handle more complex roof designs and gaining contractor buy-in, they remain confident in the robot’s potential. The company emphasizes that human involvement is still necessary for tasks like roof evaluation, tear-offs, and supervision of the robot’s operation. Renovate Robotics is actively seeking beta testers among roofing contractors, particularly those with larger operations.