03/07/2017 - 14:28

Caterpillar to help globalise Perth's robot brickies

03/07/2017 - 14:28

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Robot bricklaying machines could be built and distributed worldwide by Caterpillar in the near future, after Fastbrick Robotics signed a collaboration agreement with the global machinery manufacturer.

Caterpillar to help globalise Perth's robot brickies
Mark Pivac (left) and Michael Pivac, with Fastbrick Robotics' Hadrian bricklaying robot.

Robot bricklaying machines could be built and distributed worldwide by Caterpillar in the near future, after Fastbrick Robotics signed a collaboration agreement with the global machinery manufacturer.

Fastbrick today announced to the ASX that it had signed a memorandum of understanding with Caterpillar to develop potential framework for the development, manufacture, sales and service of the company’s robotic bricklaying technology.

Since listing on the ASX in late 2015, Fastbrick has been working to commercialise its technology, most notably creating a commercial prototype known as Hadrian X last year. 

The robots can lay about 1,000 standard bricks per hour, about twice the amount a typical brickie could do in a day’s work.

However, chief executive Michael Pivac said today’s announcement of a formal arrangement with Caterpillar, which took around 12 months to consummate, was the most significant step forward in the company’s short history.

Under the agreement, Caterpillar will initially invest $US2 million in Fastbrick via a placement priced at 10 cents per share, and will also have an option to invest an additional $US8 million priced at 20 cents per share, subject to shareholder approval.

“It’s a wonderful thing to receive third-party validation from a company like Caterpillar, and to be able to spend the last 10 months or so working with them on what our strategic partnership can and will look like in the months and years ahead is a very significant step forward for us,” Mr Pivac told Business News.

“It also validates what we’ve believed for some time in terms of what the construction sector and certainly what other industries need in terms of machines that provide productivity and efficiency gains and safety gains and those sorts of things.

“Companies like Caterpillar are keen to make inroads into those things too, and they have seen the work that we’ve been doing in the background with our technology and our machines, and they see it as a good fit moving forward.”

Mr Pivac said the MOU would apply for at least the next 12 months, which would be spent formalising strategic alliance agreements, development agreements, intellectual property sharing and royalty sharing arrangements.

Both Caterpillar and Fastbrick retain the rights to extend or terminate the arrangement during that 12-month period, while Fastbrick has agreed to work exclusively with Caterpillar for the potential commercialisation of the robots.

“The end game is that Cat will be the company that will manufacture and distribute these machines, but importantly also to help us develop them further and make them field-ready,” Mr Pivac said.

“Unbeknown to us at the time when we first sat down with the Caterpillar team was that they have been working on solutions like this for a number of years also, and having seen the work that we’ve done and the technology that we’ve created, they see it as a very highly valued item in terms of where they want to go in the digital construction arena too.

“They have been working on digital construction techniques and machines for about a decade now, one of the key factors to making these machines successful is being able to guide and compensate for dynamic interferences in the outdoor environment, and that is what we specialise in.

“We have a core suite of technology that will enable companies like Caterpillar to create the machines of the future.”

The arrangement would also explore what other applications Fastbrick’s technology can be used for, Mr Pivac said.

“We are looking at opportunities in the oil and gas sector, the mining sector and the maritime sector,” he said.

“Obviously with construction being a sector that hasn’t seen any productivity gains in almost 50 years, it is the sector that is crying out for efficiency gains more than anything else right now, and in some terms it’s the low-hanging fruit, but it is also the largest marketplace for what we are doing.

“So things are aligning nicely for us, we will see our technology coming out in applications best suited to construction and mining sectors but we also have a strong view that our technology has very strong applications in those other sectors.”

Fastbrick Robotics shares jumped on the ASX today following the announcement, gaining 20.9 per cent, or 2.2 cents, to finish trade at 12.7 cents.

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